Pelham Park Tree Hugger/Mugger Busted

City Park Rangers have caught a tree-killing suspect in the ax!

But the tree mugger, it turns out, is a longtime tree hugger.

David Burg, 62, of the Bronx was charged with damaging several trees in Pelham Bay on October 28 after a park ranger found him holding a hatchet near several newly damaged trees, city Parks officials said.

While sources said he remains a prime suspect in the Oct. 10 attack on more than a dozen trees there, he was only charged with criminal mischief and trespass in the latest incident.

In both cases, the trees were “girdled” with an ax – a ring of bark stripped away so the trees would eventually die from lack of nutrients climbing from their roots.

They said Burg has been a member of the NYC Audubon Society’s conservation committee since the 80s. He is also a volunteer with the Parks Department who was allowed to cut down plant life deemed invasive by Parks officials. When the first incident happened, Parks called off any conservation removal work.

The girdled trees stood near a 400-year-old tree known as the “Great Oak” where it competed for fresh water resources from the damaged trees, whose roots would eventually strangle the large tree’s roots.

Sources said Burg was “a person of interest” to police after the first incident, but so far there is no reported official connection between Burg’s arrest incident and the Oct. 10 vandalism when the dozen or so Spanish oak trees were girdled in the southern tip of Pelham Bay Park.

Police sources said that after consultation with the 45th Precinct, “it was determined there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge Burg with the original incident.”

But the source told The Bronx Times that Burg “lawyered up” when he was questioned about the Oct. 10th incident.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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