Obsessive squirrel-feeding woman drives neighbors away

spectr17

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Jul 11, 2002

Squirrel problem drives couple out

By Peter J. Wasson, Wausau Daily Herald
pwasson@wdhprint.com

Susan and Jeff Miller have had enough of the gnawing damage to their Steuben Street home. They've had it with hate mail and phone calls saying they're out to get a helpless old lady.

Mostly, they've had it with the squirrels. After 21Ú2 years on Wausau's north side, they're moving from the city today and getting away from Merry King once and for all.

"Absolutely it's because of her," Susan Miller said. "We're fortunate to have a job transfer that works out for us, but even if we didn't we'd be leaving. We can't take it any more."
Tempers are once again rising in King's neighborhood as residents say the elderly woman with a dedication to wildlife is again stalking their yards in the middle of the night, strewing hundreds of pounds of nuts and seeds around Ninth and 10th streets.

"We haven't gotten any new complaints, but I suspect people have given up complaining because there's nothing we can do," Wausau Police Chief William Brandimore said. "One family, one of the most bitter about the situation, is moving and that's unfortunate. We weren't able to solve this for them. This has proved too tough for our arbitration efforts."
Problems with King, who could not be reached for comment, stretch back years. But they have come to a head over the past two years as new residents have moved into the neighborhood and found their homes overrun with rodents.

Police have cited King several times for littering and trespassing, but it has not stopped her. She simply has paid the fines and continued feeding the animals, Brandimore said.

Members of the city's Youth Action Council volunteered in spring to rake shells from yards in the neighborhood in an attempt to make peace. It didn't work.

At a loss for solutions, the city attempted early this year to pass an ordinance limiting the number and type of animal feeders that residents can maintain. But City Council members voted down the proposal after long and heated debate.

"I don't think there is a solution through the city," Mayor Linda Lawrence said. "An ordinance that punishes everyone for the behavior of one person is not good policy."
Susan Miller said Lawrence simply doesn't understand how bad things are. She took a reporter on a tour of the neighborhood, crunching nutshells with every step on the sidewalks and pointing out piles of cracked shells under trees a block away from King's home.

"Last summer, someone nailed a note to our garage door," she said. "It said, 'We hope you burn in flaming hell for picking on this old lady. You're all high and mighty,' and a bunch of other wacky stuff. People don't understand."
Miller said the problem has nothing to do with King's age, and Paula Schmidt, who lives at the corner of Ninth and Hamilton streets, agreed. Schmidt, 69, said she feels no kinship with King simply because they belong to the same generation.

"I don't know what the answer is, but we have squirrels everywhere," she said. "You can't send her to a psychiatrist because she won't go. You can't put her in jail. I don't know what to do."
The damage is so extensive that the Millers felt compelled to describe the threat in the disclosure statement attached to the sale of their house. They're headed to Tennessee and don't want the buyer to call them in a few weeks trying to back out of the deal.

"We put in writing that there's a large population of rodents with the potential to cause property damage," Susan Miller said. "All she's done is change her tactics. She runs around dumping nuts at 1 a.m. instead of during daylight. She still drives down the street at night with her lights off, pitching nuts into people's yards."
Brandimore said he's fresh out of answers. When a Steuben Street resident complained about King during a neighborhood meeting last month, Brandimore said he might have to start sending reports to the district attorney's office for possible criminal charges.

"But I'm reluctant to do that," he said. "I think we've done everything we can. Do you put a senior citizen in the county jail over an issue that has caused a lot of hard feelings but is really a neighborhood dispute? I mean, in all other ways, she's a normal human being who has lived a productive life. She's just obsessed with squirrels."
 

shaginator

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Sounds like a JHP Squirrel-O-Rama is needed.

(Edited by shaginator at 12:51 pm on July 12, 2002)
 

Marty

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If she can chuck nuts and not get caught, why can't others toss 'baited' nuts?  Not like you can tell the difference.  Then the squirrel population might show a decline.  Notice that the local authorities were not quoted about trapping.  
 

MBullism

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I'm surprised the squirrels haven't picked up this lady and made off with her- she sounds like a nut.
 

hucklburry

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This has to have caused the sellers to lose money on the sale of the house, don't you think? I am all for the lady doing whatever she wants on her own property, but I would be pretty upset (to put it lightly) if she was throwing out what they described here. And I have 4 bird feeders in my yard.

Of course, how would she react if I was out in my yard with my bow during legal season with my permit shooting them all. Hang the tails on the mailbox or something.

Personally, if tresspass and littering laws (isn't it usually like a $500 fine anymore in a lot of places? Think of that for each seed she puts out!!) can't stop her than I don't think some sort of nuisance law would be a bad thing.

I can certainly see how this would set someone off at some point to do something stupid.  Maybe someone should turn a bunch of cats loose to cut things down a bit.

--Jim
 


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