HOLLEY, N.Y., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Tickets to a suddenly controversial squirrel hunt in upstate New York sold out this weekend despite an uproar among animal lovers stoked by social media.
The Holley Fire Department's so-called Squirrel Slam went on as scheduled this weekend even with clusters of protesters posted on street corners and sometimes exchanging words with the village locals.
"We tried our best to reach Holley officials to get this awful event canceled and we were refused," Edita Birnkrant, New York Director for Friends of Animals, told the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.
The newspaper said the field for the hunting contest was sold out and the village square in Holley was filled Saturday with hunters bringing their pint-sized trophies in from the field.
Organizers of the seventh-annual hunt said the event fits in with the longstanding hunting tradition in their rural region and is a necessary source of funding for the community fire department. "Budgetary constraints and funding make it difficult for first responders in this community to support this service," David Knapp, president of the Holley Fire Company, told WHAM-TV in Rochester, N.Y.
The Squirrel Slam had been fairly low key in past years with some residents claiming they had never heard of it until it became a nationwide issue among animal-rights groups. Emotions were raised to the point the FBI was alerted to death threats allegedly made toward village officials.