DERRY — This year’s Miss New Hampshire competition didn’t go off without some flying fur when it came to a traditional gift bestowed upon the winner.

About 30 people, representing various animal welfare groups, gathered outside Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy last Saturday to protest the presentation of a fur coat to the newly-crowned Miss New Hampshire.

The coat, made this year of gray fox, is a gift of the New Hampshire Trappers Association, a longtime supporter of the competition.

Protesters held signs showing trapping photos and other images as cars pulled into the venue’s parking lot. One protester was dressed as a fox, with a trap attached to its arm.

An online petition garnered more than 125,000 signatures in protest of the fur.

“It is time that the Miss New Hampshire organization, and indeed Miss America’s as well, takes a stand against cruelty to animals and says ‘no’ to this fur coat,” the site stated. “These young women are supposed to reflect today’s society and trends. They should show independence, compassion, and caring toward animals.”

This year’s winner of Miss New Hampshire was Sarah Tubbs, 25, of Stratham. She was selected among 28 titleholders representing cities and regions across the state.

A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, she receives $77,000 in scholarships and prizes

Susan Monty, of Derry, held a sign outside the competition that she created to protest trapping, which she called “despicable.”

But Dwight Pennell, president of the New Hampshire Trappers Association, said it is safely managed and regulated in the state, using scientific wildlife management methods.

The organization has supported the Miss New Hampshire program for 26 years, awarding every year’s winner a fur coat.

“We are the shepherds of the animals,” Pennell said. “We go out and we try to keep the wildlife on an even keel. We have huge success stories of managing wildlife.”

He noted state Fish and Game officials monitor trapping data, as well, including trapping locations and the number of animals caught. Trappers also have to complete instructional courses.

Pennell said the activists have information about the state’s trapping regulations but they continue to

spread their own information, which he says can be misleading.

“You are never going to convince them to your side,” he said. “There are a few that want to stop all animal use.”

In all the years of supporting Miss New Hampshire, Pennell said the fur coat has been a beautiful gift.

“The girls received it very well,” he said.

Julie Huss writes for the Derry News and The Eagle-Tribune.

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