Deerfield Rep. Jim Spillane ousted from committee after posting image of squirrel he shot: Warning graphic image

Monitor staff
Published: 6/28/2019 5:46:58 PM

The trail of controversy for state Rep. Jim Spillane of Deerfield now includes a dead squirrel.

Spillane was ousted from the Fish and Game Committee on Friday after the lawmaker posted a tweet showing the dead squirrel he had shot recently in his backyard. The photo, which is still online, was described as “horrible” by Rep. Stephen Shurtleff of Penacook, who, as the House speaker, made the decision to remove Spillane.

Spillane was unavailable for comment. He had claimed in a published report that the squirrel posed a threat to his chicken coop and had disturbed his bird feeder.

Shurtleff said in a phone interview Friday that officers from the Fish and Game Department were sent to Spillane’s home after receiving complaints about the photo. Two issues quickly surfaced: First, squirrels can be hunted from Sept. 1 to Jan. 1 only, unless the animal poses a danger to property or domestic animals.

And second, posting the photo, which was not illegal, was deemed in poor taste and set a bad example for an official responsible for monitoring wildlife in the state.

Jordan was also unavailable for comment, but Shurtleff said the Fish and Game’s chief law enforcement officer had told him the squirrel was not enough of a threat to Spillane’s property or animals to warrant killing it.

“Col. Jordan explicitly said that (Spillane) was warned that he was hunting out of season and that there was no just cause for what he did,” Shurtleff said. “This made it awkward for both the department and Rep. Spillane to remain on that committee. For that reason alone, he was removed.” Shurtleff, a Democrat, said his decision to remove Spillane had nothing to do with the fact that Spillane is a Republican.

“For me, this has nothing to do with politics,” Shurtleff said. “As the speaker, I always try to put the best interests of the house and of the people we serve first, and I think in this instance it’s best for the people of New Hampshire and the committee itself to have Rep. Spillane not serve on that committee.”

This is not the first time Spillane has made news for the wrong reasons. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct and driving while intoxicated first offense, and was sentenced to two years’ probation.

He had been charged with felony reckless conduct and felony attempted second-degree assault after police said he had caused his wife to crash their car by grabbing the steering wheel, and later strangling her inside their home.

In 2017, Spillane was charged with two counts of driving while intoxicated, plus open container and yellow line violations after Pembroke police received a report of a car swerving.

He was found not guilty of the DWI charge by a Hooksett court judge, but was convicted of the open container and yellow line violations.

The Monitor reported at the time that police claimed Spillane had failed several sobriety tests and they found a flask in his pants pocket, which Spillane admitted contained whiskey.

Shurtleff declined to comment on Spillane’s past legal troubles, nor would he make any connection between those incidents and the latest controversy involving a squirrel.

“I’m looking at the incident before us now,” Shurtleff said. “What happened in the past, I’m not bringing that to bear with respect to my decision of this matter.”

Shurtleff, who saw the squirrel photo on Spillane’s Twitter account, said the Deerfield rep used a .50-caliber muzzleloader to kill the squirrel, adding that he was familiar with that kind of weapon and the damage it’s capable of inflicting.

“It was a very small animal,” Shurtleff said, “and as a hunter myself and someone who has shot with a muzzleloader, it wasn’t surprising to see that it pretty much disintegrated the squirrel.

“It was very inappropriate to post it on social media,” Shurtleff said.

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