A mystery surrounding a missing flock of pigeons and a white van has been unfolding in Washington Square Park.
The Washington Square Park Blog reported Monday that a group of approximately 300 pigeons were lured with bird seed before being scooped up by a net and loaded into a white van by two unidentified men on Tuesday, July 21 at around 3 p.m. The NYPD Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad is currently investigating the case.
Pigeon trapping on private, commercial or public property without a permit is illegal in New York City, however the city does not accept complaints about netting, “the use of nets to collect large amounts of pigeons,” according to NYC.gov.
Artist and pigeon enthusiast Tina Trachtenberg, who is known for the felt pigeons she creates and sells in the park, initially informed the blog of the alleged abduction.
Trachtenberg, who also goes by the name “Mother Pigeon,” says she learned of the incident from a man named Larry, “a constant presence in the park,” who claims to have seen the pigeons placed in the van and taken away, according to the blog. Trachtenberg and her family held a memorial for the 300 missing pigeons on Saturday, July 25.
Trachtenberg believes the motive for the bird-napping is clear, though this has not been confirmed by authorities.
“The person who did this will transport them to Pennsylvania where they will have their wings clipped and be put into a mechanism that will shoot them in the air and men will shoot them for sport,” Trachtenberg posted on Facebook. “Our hearts are crushed.”
There have been reports in the past of pigeon brokers trapping and sell pigeons to people who participate in legal pigeon shootings in Pennsylvania. At these shoots and hunts, pigeons are propelled from a mechanical launcher and shot in midair.
Although these practices do not occur legally in New York, activists are alleging that there is a pattern where large quantities of pigeons are disappearing about a week before these scheduled Pennsylvania shoots take place.
In an interview with the Washington Square Park blog, a spokesperson for the NYC Parks Department pleaded with New Yorkers: “Don’t steal our animals! Pigeons are core to the character of New York City, and it is illegal and dangerous to remove animals from NYC Parks.”
Real estate agent and pigeon owner William Macleod has observed the pigeon flocks in Washington Square Park for eight years. Macleod regularly takes his birds to the park to fly alongside the wild birds and said he noticed a significant decrease in the park’s pigeon population after the July 21 incident. He said four of his banded pigeons are missing.
“I’m absolutely devastated. When I started letting my original two out, Jacko and Jix, I knew I may never see them again,” he said of his red belgian racers, whom he rescued eight years ago from a park garbage can three days after their birth. “But to know that they may be killed is what really upsets me.”
Joyce Friedman, NYC coordinator of the Humane Society of the United States, said there are ways for witnesses to report pigeon netting. “If you witness the netting in action, call 911; try to record license plate, and description of perps and vehicle,” Friedman said. “Witnesses to the recent Washington Square pigeon netting or any other pigeon nettings learned about after the fact should contact 311.”
There is also a $500 reward poster that was created by a concerned NYC photographer, Andrew Garn, looking for anyone with information about the Washington Square Park nettings.