Protesters slam squirrel feeding ban

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Wildlife feeders, including a performance artist dressed as a pigeon, sing protest songs at the gates of City Hall on Tuesday. (Photos and video by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With a full wildlife feeding ban expected to start this summer in city parks, animal rights activists rallied against the Parks Department’s proposed ban on Tuesday on the steps of City Hall.

Bronx resident Lucia Maria led the rally with her group, Bronx Animal Rights Electors, and said that the mayor had responded to a caller during Brian Lehrer’s “Ask the Mayor” segment on March 22, saying he would more closely examine the opposition to the ban. However, he has since approved of the ban, agreeing with the Parks Department’s argument that feeding birds and squirrels is also feeding the city’s rat population.

“The mayor made it sound as if city parks were over-run by hordes of wildlife feeders who littered parks with all kinds of debris from balls to balloons to bottles to old shoes,” Maria said. “It’s true, parks are littered with these items, but they are not from bird or squirrel feeders. The truth is that less than one percent of park-goers feed birds or squirrels. Of this percentage, most of the people who do feed them are senior citizens, the disabled and families. These are the people the Parks Department and the mayor now want to label as criminals.”

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Rally planned over planned squirrel feeding ban

A squirrel and a park goer share a bench at Madison Square Park. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A group of animal rights activists will be holding a rally on the front steps of City Hall on Tuesday to protest a full wildlife feeding ban in city parks that’s expected to begin this summer.

The Bronx Animal Rights Electors is arguing that the mayor has “only listened to the Parks Department’s arguments for the ban and now, despite overwhelming public opposition and without any form of a city council review, he approves the Parks Department steamrolling this ban.”

Earlier this year, the Parks Department, which technically always forbade the feeding of animals in city parks, except for squirrels and birds, pushed for a full wildlife feeding ban. The reason, the department explained at the time, was to keep rats at bay.

“We think all New Yorkers should be healthy eaters, including our wildlife,” spokesperson Meghan Lalor said. “But, food left on the ground is an open invitation for rodents to congregate for a free meal. This amendment will help to clarify the rules, and keep our parks safe and clean.”

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Editorial: And so it begins

This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve devoted this column space to the ever-divisive debate on squirrel feeding, but since the rules have just been changed in a big way it seems like an appropriate time to weigh in again.

Firstly we would like to recognize the Parks Department and the management of Stuyvesant Town for waiting until the warmer months to implement a wildlife feeding ban when at least it is easier for squirrels and birds to tap into their natural food sources. After all, Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21 came about because an advocate for the critters felt they had a tougher time finding food on their own in the dead of winter.

The conclusions are mixed even among experts on whether squirrel and bird feeding is helpful or harmful in the long run. And we understand the arguments for a ban as well as for human supplementing of urban animals’ sustenance, too.

Our view on the bans is that they should at least be given a chance to accomplish their goals. In the case of parks, to discourage the proliferation of rats and in the case of Stuy Town and Peter Cooper to truly to end the pattern of aggressive begging that has led to a few children getting bitten or scratched (though we doubt intentionally) by squirrels looking for a meal. As for whether these animals can be expected to break this habit after many decades of domestication we… well we truly don’t know. And we won’t know until we at least give them a chance to remember it’s their instinct to climb trees and collect nuts, not climb through strollers and garbage cans and collect leftover McDonald’s.

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Wildlife feeding bans coming soon to Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village and city parks

By this summer, there’ll be no such thing as a free lunch for squirrels and birds at city parks, even sooner in Stuyvesant Town Peter Cooper Village, at least not from a human benefactor. (Pictured) A squirrel noshes on a park goer’s leftovers at Madison Square Park. (Photo by Madison Square Park Conservancy)

By Sabina Mollot

Animal lovers who enjoy feeding the squirrels and birds in this city should do so quickly, because soon it won’t be allowed in the places where the aforementioned animals congregate.

As of April 1, it will be against the rules to feed the wildlife in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. Additionally, the city’s mulling of a plan for a full wildlife feeding ban in parks has gained steam, with a spokesperson telling Town & Village it’s expected to go into place this summer.

As for the Stuy Town policy, this new rule comes after management conducted a resident survey on the subject (as well as dog-related policies for pet owners) last summer. Then, last Thursday, StuyTown Property Services made sure to remind tenants of the soon to come ban in its weekly e-blast, and the reason for it.

This was “due to several incidents involving resident children being bitten by squirrels.”

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