Residents concerned over recent squirrel deaths in Stuy Town

Deceased squirrel found in Stuy Town on Tuesday (Photo by Marilyn Pascarelli)

By Sabina Mollot

Several reported sightings over the past couple of weeks of dead and dying squirrels in Stuyvesant Town have had residents wondering what’s going on — since they clearly weren’t devoured by hawks.

One resident, Noam Freedman, said he saw a dying one near Playground 7, with his wife spotting another one behind 7 Oval. The one he saw was lying on the ground, its legs twitching.

“I’ve been here for 50 years and I’ve never seen a single dead squirrel,” said Freedman. “To see two in two days seemed strange.”

On November 15, Freedman noted the incidents on the Tenants Association’s Facebook page. This was followed by a few more residents commenting that they’d seen dead squirrels in different areas in the complex recently.

Meanwhile, Stuy Town management, by Wednesday, had discovered a few deceased squirrels but General Manager Rick Hayduk said he has been told by an environmental services company, Assured Environment, that the number was not out of the ordinary for squirrels’ life cycle.

Since it’s unclear how many neighborhood squirrels have died recently beyond those that have been reported, Town & Village reached out to local animal rescuer/rehabilitator Bernie Goetz for his take on the situation.

Goetz said he actually has noticed an uptick in dead squirrels, though he couldn’t speculate as to the reason.

“There have been a lot of dead squirrels in the past few months,” said Goetz, but, he noted, “It just happens.” Reasons include disease, hawks and dogs. Once, he said he saw an owner instruct a dog to go after a squirrel, which it did.

On Sunday, Goetz said he found two dead squirrels inside Stuyvesant Town near 16th Street and First Avenue. Both were juvenile, he noticed, though one of them had a clearly infected paw, which may have been the cause of death. That other had no obvious sign of a problem. Goetz said he’s seen about eight dead squirrels in the past two weeks.

“A few I’m sure have been taken by a hawk,” he added. “Last year a juvenile hawk massacred squirrels in Peter Cooper Village.”

He added that squirrels generally have a tough time surviving once it gets cold. He believes another reason for this is that there just aren’t enough trees for them, even in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper.

Incidentally, Goetz, who along with caring for squirrels, is also known for being the “subway vigilante” after shooting four muggers on a train in 1984, was in Peter Cooper a few weeks ago to try to rescue a squirrel. Goetz, after hearing about a young, sick squirrel who was having trouble eating, attempted to catch it in a trap, and though he did succeed in catching two others that he promptly let go, failed to net the one that needed help. He said he’d check on the local squirrel population again soon, though.

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14 thoughts on “Residents concerned over recent squirrel deaths in Stuy Town

  1. The jerk who instructed his dog to go after a squirrel is lucky his dog is still alive. If a squirrel is moving slowly enough that a dog can catch it, it is probably very sick and would make the dog sick. Some people are such total a**holes.

  2. How can we find out how to go about finding who or what (though I’m sure it’s a who) is killing these enchanting, clever little creatures? As a childhood resident of Stuyvesant Town and PCV, I’ve always loved these cuties, and the black ones you have now are so unique and rare. I will do anything I can to help. ALSO: important–if you do happen to trap a squirrel, please be in touch with a veterinarian, Penn State Veterinary School, or Cornell University’s Animal Medical School about how to care for it. Squirrels have very specific needs. If you’d like to know more, you can follow Jinx (the squirrel) on Instagram, who was found as an injured baby and reared as a pet. He is just about the sweetest natured tiny creature. Jinx’s owner can also be a great source of information.

  3. I’ve been living in Styv-town for 37 years and I never had any problems with the squirrels. I often feed them when I was little and I still do! The black squirrels are so unique and special to Stuyvesant town/ Peter Cooper. We should love the diverse wildlife and not try to exterminate them. It’s insulting to imply that the squirrels are dying off because of natural causes or the hawk.

  4. If the Tenants Association can’t do anything, let’s be thankful there are residents like Bernie who are capable of taking matters into their own hands and safeguarding our community’s squirrels. I am hopeful that one day the Tenants Association can stand up for affordability and also environmental protection. On behalf of all of us — Thank-you, Bernie!!

  5. Bernie doesn’t live on the property. I think he lives on West 14th, but he comes over here to feed the squirrels and take care of any sick ones. Btw, when a hawk gets a squirrel it eats it. That is the natural order of the food chain. A hawk won’t just kill for the sake of killing. If someone is poisoning the squirrels, the Hawks will get poisoned too. Same goes for any dog that sinks it’s teeth into a poisoned squirrel.

    • I’m SO sorry–but when I saw an e-mail from a name I didn’t recognize, I deleted it. Can you re-send Bernie’s contact information? Many thanks.

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