First it was the trees, now it’s the animals.
After 15 trees were fatally attacked – now believed to be the work of a tree hugger and not a tree mugger – Pelham Bay Park’s geese and other animals are under attack.
Two injured Ring-billed gulls, a Canada Goose and a squirrel were found wounded by pen-sized darts from a blow gun near the Orchard Beach parking lot on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
In a similar incident in the same area Sept. 21, workers found two birds killed and two others wounded the same way. The wounded birds had to later be euthanized.
Blow guns are often available for sale in convenience stores or bodegas, said Pelham Bay Parks administrator Marianne Anderson.
While there have been issues with cross bows in city parks, these are the first blow gun dart attacks as far as she was aware, she said.
“This is something new,” said Anderson. “I have never seen anything like this before.”
The bird attacks come as police and Parks enforcement officers are hunting for the individual who stripped rings of bark from around 15 pin oak trees inside the park sometime earlier this month near a spot popular with birders and hikers.
“Girdling” the trees like that condemned them to a slow death by cutting off their flow of nutrients.
The 40-year-old trees stand very close to the park’s oldest tree, a towering 400-year-old white oak.
“It looks like whoever ‘girdled’ those trees knew what they were doing,” said a source.
“It’s possible they were concerned about the roots from those trees eventually choking off the roots of that giant tree,” they said. “At least that’s one working theory.”
Removing or hurting a park tree is a misdemeanor punishable by a $15,000 fine and/or a year in prison. The girdling in Pelham Bay Park is worth “thousands of dollars” in damage, Anderson said.
As for the blow gun attacks, “I didn’t even know these things are for sale,” said Anderson, adding that perhaps the dart guns are like BB guns for the current generation.
Geoffrey Croft, head of the NYC Park Advocates, said that the attacks highlight the need for more Parks Enforcement Police for the Bronx, which has only six for the entire borough, he said.
“It is terrible because attacking defenseless animals is not what is supposed to happen in a public park,” said Croft. “It is not just about human safety. We also have to be mindful about our animals, trees, and things that grow.”
The 45th Precinct has assigned a case detective, and patrol cars are giving extra attention to the area.
Following news reports about the death or injury of the nine animals in the park, local Councilman Jimmy Vacca took the first steps, proposing legislation banning the sale of blow guns.
“They serve no productive purpose,” he said, “especially when they are used illegally and unacceptably used to kill and maim animals.”
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393