Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wounds that time can't heal

It was dusk last May 13 when Mark Johnson, Princeton’s animal control officer, walked into a borough park carrying a rifle and shot two beavers. As news of the killings spread, outrage was expressed in letters to the editor and comments on newspaper coverage.

Shooting beavers is illegal in New Jersey. A spokesperson for the state’s DEP said no permit had been issued to trap the beavers, nor had there been beaver activity in the department’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The ACO had told a resident he encountered en route that DFW ordered the killing, according to a Princeton Packet story soon afterward.

That was all more than three months ago, yet the official reaction to date has been negligible. DEP issued one summons to the ACO on July 14, although a report about the beaver shooting incident has still not arrived. The court date is not yet known, and its location has changed twice, from local to county to Ewing Township.

Johnson reports to David A. Henry, health officer with the Princeton Regional Health Dept. On August 19, Henry said he’s still waiting for the DEP report, which “may indicate what some of the conversations were between Johnson and DFW.”

Once the court case is complete, he also expects a report from the Dept. of Health and Senior Services, where animal-related laws and the Animal Welfare office reside.

Local police investigated the shootings, but their findings are “personnel matters” that can’t be discussed, Henry said in May. At the same time, he declined to say whose rifle was used to kill the beavers or whether Johnson had his permission to shoot them.

And so the wait continues.

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