By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Wildlife advocates are in a fowl mood thanks to a ring of pigeon-nappers. The bird thieves have been trapping the ubiquitous New York bird from local parks recently and selling them for target practice out of state, including to customers in Pennsylvania. Neighborhood resident and wildlife advocate Andrew Garn expressed his concern for the birds at the recent community council meeting at the 13th Precinct on Tuesday.
“I know it sounds like a joke,” Garn admitted after a smattering of laughter from meeting attendees. “But this has been going on in the neighborhood for years.”
Garn, a photographer who took an interest in the birds’ plight about two years ago after photographing them for about eight years, said that the trappers catch the birds by putting down feed and using spring-loaded nets. Garn lives in Stuyvesant Square and although he noted that this is an ongoing problem throughout the city, he said it is especially prevalent in parks in his neighborhood.
“It’s two guys driving around in a green minivan,” he said. “They regularly hit Union Square Park and Stuyvesant Square Park, and they sell them to Pennsylvania so people can use them as target practice.”
Public Safety Chief Bill McClellan said at the meeting that Stuyvesant Town surveillance video caught the bird-nappers in the act last year near the corner of East 14th Street and First Avenue.
Community Affairs Manager at StuyTown Property Services Marynia Kruk later told Town & Village that Public Safety found the footage in response to a request by the NYPD and this was the only incident Stuy Town management was aware of in or around the property. Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney, the precinct’s commanding officer, said at the meeting that he was not aware of the incidents but said that he would notify officers at the precinct who work in a specialized unit dealing with animal cruelty.
The Daily News posted a video about a year ago of someone matching Garn’s description, capturing a number of birds in a canvas net and putting them in the back of a dark-colored van. The woman who posted the video mentioned in a comment that the man threw feed onto the ground and when the birds flocked to it, he grabbed the net to capture them and then sped off in the van.
“The problem is that (the NYPD) knows the guy but they can’t arrest him,” Garn said. Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor in New York so perpetrators are usually fined, and Garn said that this has not been enough of a deterrent. Trapping pigeons without a permit is also illegal in the city. “He’s gotten tickets and he just pays them. I think he just considers it a cost of doing business because he can make so much money doing it.”