Recent Pigeon Abduction Attempt at Washington Square Thwarted by Park Regular; Other BirdNappings Witnessed

These Follows July Incidents When Hundreds of Pigeons Illegally Snatched (Updated)

Larry; Tina Trachtenberg at WSP
Larry; Tina Trachtenberg at WSP

After hundreds of pigeons were illegally snatched, netted and removed from Washington Square Park this summer, and the media attention the incident received, you might think the perpetrators would be hesitant to return to the 10 acre space. Such is not the case.

Two weeks ago, on a Sunday, there was an another attempted pigeon netting along Washington Square West right inside the park. This time, instead of getting away with hundreds of birds, the netting was thwarted by Larry, a park regular and friend to pigeons. I spoke with him the next day (Nov. 30) along with Tina Trachtenberg, an artist and animal advocate, who displays felt pigeons in the park. Trachtenberg held a memorial for the park’s pigeons after the summer’s mass abduction. The pigeons at the park have many fans and friends.

According to Larry, this attempt happened at the center entrance along a pathway steps from Washington Square West and Washington Place; a location where other nettings have been reported.

Larry saw the pigeons gathering in that area of the park and was curious as to why; that was when he realized from afar what was happening, and he said, “I was in a full sprint. The guy had the net down and he had about 10 to 15 pigeons in it.”

Larry in front of pole demonstrating what transpired with Tina
Larry in front of pole demonstrating what transpired with Tina

Pigeon Napper Hid Behind Park Pole; When Confronted, He was Instructed: Put the Birds Down Now

The pigeons were not yet scooped up as Larry got to the spot. He noted that the man had first hidden behind a pole after setting down a net on a stick. Larry described it as “a big round thing; a big long net and a pole about 4 foot long.” He saw the man hiding behind the pole and what he witnessed was that he “lifted the pole up and gave it a spin” to get the birds scooped up in the net which was on the ground underneath bird seed set to attract the birds.

As Larry ran over, a PEP (Parks Enforcement Patrol) officer was also nearby and came over.

Larry approached the man with the net and said, “I ain’t letting you go.” Some conversation ensued, at times heated.

I asked what then happened. And Larry looked at me and smiled: “He let them go.”

Washington Square Park Administrator Sarah Neilson has reported at Community Board meetings that the PEP officers “like to walk around in pairs,” which might be helpful in a situation like this, but it often seems they are alone; this PEP officer was.

The PEP officer also insisted that the man let the pigeons go. He did not apprehend him, however.

The NYPD are supposedly stationed in the park administration/bathroom building, yet somehow never nearby when a netting occurs.

Larry noted that the van was “a dark colored vehicle” and was parked right outside the park gate.

Cameras surround Washington Sq Park
NYPD Cameras surround Washington Sq Park

Netting pigeons in New York City is a crime and the Parks Department has previously provided a statement on this.

Bubble Guy Witness: Pigeon Napper “Looked Right into my Eyes and Smiled” as He Ran Off with Netted Pigeons

When self—dubbed “Bubble guys” Jack Kocher and Derek Johnnie heard about the netting attempt, the pair stated that they too had witnessed a pigeon netting at Washington Square Park. It was only a week and a half prior to this one and the men stole a dozen or more birds.

They described it as occurring at the same park entrance, around 5/5:30 (the other incidents have typically been earlier in the day, the times not as specific).

Kocher and Johnnie were stationed near Holley Plaza (west of the Fountain). Kocher said, “We looked over and this guy whips out a net, runs to the van, jumps in the van and it speeds off.” He said, “I watched him drive off and thought … this is like a movie.”

He added, “We were staring at him. And he smiled. He looked right in my eyes and took off.”

Johnnie said, “It was basically a kidnapping.” He paused and clarified: “It was a bird napping.”

They agreed that there was another person involved waiting in the van to drive off quickly.

Kocher commented, “It was just surreal. We looked at each other and said ‘Did that just happen?’ It was pretty daring. And very blatant. The look he gave me was almost a mischievous look.”

Well, it is daring and it is very blatant. These men appear not afraid of any repercussions because mostly they move fast before people realize what is happening, or, if they do see it, some people do not realize it is a crime or know quite what to do.

What Now?

The pigeons netted and abducted in New York City are taken to Pennsylvania and used in live pigeon shoots. They are kept in shoddy conditions without food or water so they are in a weakened state for basically a canned shoot. Pigeon netting has been going on in New York City for many years. (The New York Times wrote about it in 2004 and it seems not much has changed since then.) Some netters have been caught and taken to court and fined. The birds these netters catch are not going to a farm sanctuary: they are going to their deaths.

As for follow up, the NYPD was allegedly reviewing the cameras in the area on the date of the attempt that Larry stopped.

If you see pigeons being netted, beyond taking a picture of a license plate or the netting happening and calling 911, yell – but keep some distance. This IS a crime and needs to be stopped, particularly at Washington Square Park.

Thanks, Larry, and the PEP officer, for saving the park pigeons!

*   *   *

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Who Netted and Abducted Nearly 300 of Washington Square Park’s Pigeons? July 27, 2015

NYC Parks to Pigeon Abducters: Don’t Steal Our Animals! — “Pigeons are Core to Character of NYC” July 29, 2015

More Coverage of Washington Square Bird-Napping | Witnesses to Nettings Sought August 6, 2015

Photos: Cathryn

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