The case against the Princeton Animal Control Officer for shooting two beavers has been postponed because it could not be heard in the Lawrence Municipal Court yesterday.
A court administrator said Lawrence Municipal Court officials did not realize until late afternoon Tuesday that there was a conflict of interest in the case there.The case was scheduled to be heard in Lawrence at 10 a.m. yesterday.
The case was originally assigned to the Ewing Municipal Court but there was also a conflict of interest there. It could not be heard in Princeton because that would also be a conflict there as well.
The case, commonly referred to by many residents as “beavergate” will now be referred back to the Mercer Vicinage Municipal Division and sent to another municipal court, court officials said.
Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson is accused of illegally shooting two beavers in Pettoranello Gardens in Community Park North in May. The beavers were deemed a nuisance by township officials. The beavers were considered a nuisance by the township because they were contributing to the flooding of the pond at the Pettoranello Gardens section of Community Park North.
The shooting of the beavers caused an uproar in town, with many residents and some officials expressing their outrage. The animal control officer did not have a permit to trap the beavers, and it is illegal to shoot beavers, which are a protected species. Beavers also cannot be relocated. The must be trapped using a special trap that kills them or trapped with a regular trap and then euthanized.
In response to the beaver shootings, Princeton adopted new wildlife guidelines detailed in a three-inch thick manual that lists how each animal is supposed to be handled, from beavers to snakes to feral cats.
Health Officer Dave Henry researched best practices across the country to develop the manual.