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.