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Hawk Nearly Feasts on Chihuahua

Raptor, used to control N.Y. park's pigeon brood, apparently thought pooch was a rat.

August 07, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Trained hawks employed to keep pigeons from making a mess on visitors in a Midtown park have been grounded because one of the birds mistook a Chihuahua as its lunch.

An 18-inch hawk swooped down and gouged the diminutive pooch with one of its talons while the dog was nosing around in the bushes of Bryant Park, behind the landmark New York Public Library.

The hawk was quickly separated from the pooch Tuesday afternoon and a park employee flagged down a cab so the dog's owner could take it to a veterinarian, said Richard Dillon, vice president of security for Bryant Park.

The dog owner asked that her identity not be disclosed.

The hawk program, which aims to scare pigeons out of the park, could be terminated. A final decision is expected by the end of the week.

"I sincerely believe the bird mistook it for a rat because it was in the shrubbery," said Thomas Cullen, the falconer hired to run the program.

The Bryant Park Restoration Corp. picked up the vet's bill for treating the Chihuahua, Cullen said.

Daniel Biederman, executive director of the Bryant Park group, said pigeon infestation has been halved and visitor complaints have dropped since the hawks were introduced in April.

However, city Parks Department officials called for its end.

"We place the safety of park users, including their pets, over any minor inconvenience that may be caused by pigeons," said spokeswoman Megan Sheekey.

Some park visitors disagreed.

"This is a great idea. It's better than the alternatives, like poison," said one visitor, Ward Miller, a Glen Ridge, N.J., lawyer, who was taking his daily walk in the park.

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