Category Archives: Wild Animals

Man Pleads Guilty to Poaching Deer on Staten Island

NBC New York, March 23rd, 2015


A Staten Island man has pleaded guilty to illegally killing a deer in what may be New York City’s first-ever poaching case.

David G. Oakes was ordered to pay $3,000 in fines after entering guilty pleas to several charges including illegal taking of a deer without a license and trespassing.

Oakes was arrested by state environmental conservation officers at Schmul Playground, in the Travis-Chelsea neighborhood on the west side of the island, on Nov. 11.

He declined comment to NBC 4 New York on Friday.

The Staten Island Advance reports that the man was nabbed after officers caught him dressed in camouflage, carrying a bow. He allegedly set up cans and bait piles to lure the deer into his sights, and had no hunting license.

The man hadn’t actually killed a deer when he was arrested, the Advance reports, but told police he had taken down an eight-point buck in the same spot a year before.

Oakes’ conviction comes as the city’s least populous borough sees an explosion in poaching instances, the Advance reports. The paper reports that at least one poacher killed a deer with a shotgun, but most illegal hunters have used crossbows and composite bows.

Hunting is illegal on Staten Island and in New York City’s other four boroughs. Westchester and Suffolk counties permit deer hunting, but only with a bow.

Deer populations have risen exponentially on Staten Island in recent years.


In a Mystery, a Baby Black Bear Is Found Dead in Central Park

New York Times, October 7th, 2014


The furry black mass lay hidden under a bush near Central Park’s main loop, unnoticed, unmoving and partially concealed by an abandoned bicycle. A dog rustling in the brush drew the first eyes to the bush and a sight rarely, if ever, found in modern Manhattan: a baby black bear, dead.

A call to 911 followed and soon yellow police tape cordoned off the area near West 69th Street as detectives found themselves facing a mysterious crime scene on a sunny Monday morning.

How the animal, a three-foot-long female, got to that spot remained a mystery at day’s end: a cub, probably born this year, somehow separated from her mother and from anything resembling a natural habitat.

Bears have not been seen outside captivity in the park in recent memory. History records the shooting of a wild black bear in Manhattan, but it was several centuries ago. “This is a highly unusual situation,” said Elizabeth Kaledin, a spokeswoman for the Central Park Conservancy. “It’s awful.”

The police described the bear as having had trauma to her body, but it was not immediately clear how she had died.

“The mouth was open and it looked bloody,” said Florence Slatkin, 79, who found the bear while walking her dog, a Chihuahua mix named Paco, with a friend near her Upper West Side home. “At first, I thought it was a raccoon.” She said her friend’s dog first drew their attention to the bicycle before they noticed the dead animal by one wheel.

Nearby, New Yorkers increasingly familiar with wildlife sightings — a coyote in the park, a dolphin off Throgs Neck in the Bronx — offered theories of their own. Some suspected foul play. Others guessed an accident with a car. One man confidently pronounced the bear old enough to have wandered over from Morris County, N.J.

For several hours, detectives with the Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad pored over the grass and bushes near the bustling central drive, searching for clues and trying to determine how the bear had ended up in the park and whether she could have been alive when she arrived.

Lucas Altman told the police that he believed one of his two black Labradors had sniffed the bear during their walk Sunday night. An officer told him the bear appeared to have been dragged to the spot where she was found. “They don’t at this moment think the bear wandered there on its own,” Mr. Altman said, suggesting nefarious human involvement.

Perhaps that is how the bear evaded notice — in life and in death — as it came to rest in a section of the park usually packed with tourists, bicycle riders and pedestrians but barren of large wildlife. After finding the body around 9:30 a.m., Ms. Slatkin alerted members of the park’s staff, who called the police.

Black bear populations have grown in recent years around the city, particularly in New Jersey, where they have no natural predators, said Patrick R. Thomas, associate director of the Bronx Zoo, run by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Bears once roamed the city, but had not done so for quite some time, he said. “There’s a record of one being shot in Manhattan in 1630,” he said.

By late afternoon, a park ranger in orange gloves and a detective secured the bear’s body in a tarp and placed it in a car bound for a suburb of Albany where the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s wildlife pathology unit was to determine the cause of death.

State law prohibits bears from being kept as pets, and Ms. Kaledin said there were currently no bears in the Central Park Zoo, though an exhibit with two grizzly bears is to open there soon.

Giovanna Di Bernardo, who lives nearby, described the bear’s appearance, not to mention her death, as “puzzling.”

She had seen plenty of weird things on her regular walks in the park. A rabid raccoon for instance. But this, she said, this she would put at the top of the list.

Another reason to not let your cats out.

Endangered piping plovers enjoy a baby boom this summer in Rockaway

New York Daily News, August 11th, 2014


There’s been a baby boom among Rockaway’s piping plovers.

Twelve nesting pairs of the endangered birds successfully raised about 25 fledglings this year — five times the 2013 amount.

The spike has left conservationists scratching their heads after only five chicks survived to fly south for the winter last year.

“There is a huge difference between last year and this year, but we can’t say for sure what allowed that to happen,” said city Park Ranger Brooke Skelly, who monitors the plump, sparrow-sized birds with three other team members.

The sand-colored, federally-protected piping plover — named for its plaintive, bell-like whistle — builds its nest in the sand near the shoreline every year from March until the end of August between Beach 38th St. and Beach 56th St.

The recent dredging along the beach to help build up the hurricane-ravaged shoreline could have given gulls and crows another source of food – sparing the plover chicks from predators.

“We did notice there was a huge population of gulls feeding on whatever they pulled out of the ocean,” said Skelly.

Protecting the plovers along the Eastern seaboard, including Rockaway, has drawn grumbles from some who resent seeing large sections of beach roped off and manpower dedicated to keeping watch over the birds.

The National Park Service monitors plovers on their stretch of beach on the western end of the peninsula.

Federal and state authorities mandate special accommodations for the plovers, which were almost driven into extinction decades ago.

“It’s just part of the whole fragile web of life,” said Don Riepe, who heads the northeast chapter of the American Littoral Society. “The more species we lose, the less diversity we have in our environment.”

In the late 1800s, plover feathers were used to decorate women’s hats. In more recent years, shoreline development destroyed the habitats suitable for the birds to breed.

There are now about 800 breeding pairs, including 200 in New York, according to the state Department of Conservation.

The tiny stout birds, which weigh between one and two ounces and are about five inches long, also fall prey to stray cats and rats.

Skelly leads a seasonal plover team of three: Nathan Green, Natalia Quinteros and Victor Yin. All have experience or have studied wildlife biology.

For eight hours, seven days a week they watch over the plovers, recording their activities and maintaining the fences that protect their breeding area.

They also explain the work to beachgoers who often wonder why the section between Beach 38 to Beach 56 is off limits.

But the plovers have fans too, who often ask team members for a status update as they pass on the boardwalk.

“I think we can all co-exist with a lot of knowledge and tolerance,” said Riepe. “There’s enough beach for everyone.”


MARKETING News from the New York Times

City of Yonkers Green Policy Task Force

“All the Green News That’s Fit to Print”

June 15, 2014

The City of Yonkers Green Policy Task Force, established on Earth Day in 2007, is comprised of seven community volunteers, each appointed by a City Council member, and a representative selected by the city administration. Its members compile research on and submit potential legislative initiatives to the City Council; work on environmental quality-of-life improvements for the Yonkers community; apply for and administer environmental grants; define public health issues for the city; and foster educational outreach for Yonkers students and the community-at-large.

GPTF June Meeting: Wednesday, June 18, 6:30 pm
Fourth Floor Conference Room, City Hall.
Agenda: Sustainable Landscapes Report: Molly Roffman
Reuseable Bag Report: Bob Walters
Discussion: Hastings Ordinance re: Plastic Bags and Polystyrene
Brad and Terry: Urban Green Council Walking Tour of Yonkers planning
Any other items that come before the GPTF

Notes From the Plasticene Epoch

from the New York Times Editorial Page, June 15, 2014

From Ocean to Beach, Tons of Plastic Pollution

Like diamonds, plastics are forever. The tons dumped into the ocean float around, swirling on currents, breaking into smaller bits, never going away. Scientists have identified huge gyres of plastic in the Pacific. There is an Eastern Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California; a Western Garbage Patch, off Japan, and a patch between them called the Subtropical Convergence Zone, north of Hawaii.

The patches are misunderstood to be visible islands of debris; you can’t actually see them from a boat or plane. They are more like vast, soupy concentrations of flotsam, some of it large, some tiny, all indigestible, sickening and killing fish, birds, whales and turtles.

What you can see is what washes ashore, as countless tons of plastic do on the Hawaiian Islands, which stick up like the teeth of a comb in the middle of the northern Pacific, snagging what drifts by.

On the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, deep ocean currents rub against the remote and rocky shoreline. Volunteers regularly make a long, hot trip to clean the beaches, hauling away fishing nets, lines and traps, toys, shoes, buckets and bottles. Some of the fishing debris is shipped to a Honolulu power plant and incinerated. Some is left on the beach, and more always appears.

The Hawaii Wildlife Fund, which organizes the cleanups, estimates that they have removed about 169 tons of garbage in the last 11 years from a 10-mile stretch of Hawaii Island alone, and that about 15 tons to 20 tons of new trash comes ashore each year.

On May 24, two dozen people went out again.

They collected 1,312 pounds of trash, including:

  • 191,739 plastic fragments
  • 562 bottle or container caps
  • 93 toothbrushes
  • 64 beverage bottles
  • 48 hagfish traps
  • 35 buoys and floats
  • 3 refrigerator doors
  • 3 G.I. Joe Real American Hero toys

On a nearby beach at Kamilo Point, geologists have identified a new kind of plastic-infused rock, in areas where the plastic is so abundant in the sand and soil you can’t avoid burning it in campfires.

A paper published this month by the Geological Society of America suggests that “plastiglomerate” will someday be part of the fossil record, marking the geological era that some call the Anthropocene, for the human influence.

On Monday in Washington, the State Department will be holding an ocean conference. The topics are ocean acidification, sustainable fishing and marine pollution. The nations represented include the Seychelles, St. Lucia, Kiribati, Palau, Chile, Togo, Norway and New Zealand. Significant progress on healing the oceans is not expected.

The next cleanup is July 13 at Kamilo Point. The effort may seem futile, but at least people are doing something, like the volunteers working along shorelines in the Northeast, Texas, the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes.

World leaders, meanwhile? The nations of an increasingly plasticized planet? They are drifting in circles.

Our Members:
Chairperson: Terry Joshi

City Council President: President Liam McLaughlin with Robert Walters

District 1: Councilmember Christopher Johnson with Clifford Schneider

District 2: Councilmember Corazon Pineda with Nortrud Spero

District 3: Minority Leader Michael Sabatino with Robert Hothan

District 4: Councilmember Dennis Shepherd with Terry Joshi

District 5: Councilmember Mike Breen with Molly Roffman

District 6: Majority Leader John Larkin with Mel Goldstein

Mayor Mike Spano’s Appointee: Brad Tito



1 killed every 15 minutes

NY State Assembly to Hold Public Hearing on Illegal Ivory Trade

Livescience, January 20th, 2014


NEW YORK — Lawmakers will gather here in Manhattan tomorrow (Jan. 16) to examine the effectiveness of New York State’s restrictions on the sale of ivory.

The Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation will hold a public hearing Thursday at 11 a.m. EST at the Assembly Hearing Room in Lower Manhattan to discuss the laws in place to curb the illegal sale of ivory and protect endangered species.

Despite the existence of these laws, New York is one of the largest markets for illegal ivory in the United States, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which is based in the city. In 2012, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, seized more than $2 million worth of ivory in New York City. [In Images: 100 Most Threatened Species]

“Poachers have been illegally killing African elephants for years, bringing them to the brink of extinction,” Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney, chair of the committee, said in a statement. “It’s disturbing that New York has become one of the main points of entry for the illegal ivory trade. Not only does this illegal market cause further destruction to an endangered species, but some of the proceeds of the trade go to fund terrorism. I have called this hearing to learn how New York State can help put a stop to these reprehensible actions.”

Ivory poaching was banned in Africa in 1989, but elephant populations are still at risk, as poachers continue to strip them of their ivory tusks to sell in domestic and lucrative black markets.

WCS estimates that 96 elephants are killed each day by poachers in Africa, which is roughly one elephant death every 15 minutes. These illicit killings have contributed to a 76 percent decline in elephant populations since 2002, according to WCS officials.

“The New York seizure is evidence of a disturbing fact: There is a direct link between the illegal ivory trade in New York State and the slaughter of elephants in Africa,” John Calvelli, executive vice president for public affairs at the WCS, said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful that the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, under the leadership of Chairman Sweeney, is taking the illegal ivory trade in New York so seriously.”

Ivory tusks are primarily used for carved art and jewelry. Funds from the sale of illegal ivory have been used to fuel a range of other illicit activities, including human trafficking and the trade of arms and narcotics, representatives from the World Wildlife Fund have said.

In November 2013, the U.S. destroyed six tons of ivory carvings, jewelry and other trinkets that had been collected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through smuggling busts and confiscations. The high-profile ivory crush was staged to send a global message that the material should no longer be used in commercial products.


Snowy Owls Shot At JFK: Port Authority Mulls Alternatives To Control Birds At NY Airports

The International Business Times, December 17th, 2013

A certain kind of holiday traveler is finding a very cold welcome in New York City. Three snowy owls were reportedly shot and killed at John F. Kennedy International Airport this past Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hasn’t confirmed the kills, it did offer a justification for adding snowy owls to its “kill list.”

“Over the past two weeks, five planes at JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports were struck by snowy owls that have been migrating to our region in far higher than typical numbers this year,” the agency said in a statement on Monday.

The danger posed by birds to airplanes and their passengers is very real: In 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flight of geese and lost engine power (though all aboard were saved by pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who managed to set the plane down on the Hudson River). The Federal Aviation Administration has recorded more than 100 wildlife strikes at JFK airport and 66 strikes at La Guardia Airport so far this year — mostly birds, but with the occasional bat thrown in. Part of the reason JFK is so plagued by birds is that it lies right next to a national bird sanctuary: the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

But, prompted by media reports on the slain owls, the Port Authority now says it is going to work with the state’s environmental conservation department to implement a trapping and relocation program.

“The Port Authority’s goal is to strike a balance in humanely controlling bird populations at and around the agency’s airports to safeguard passengers on thousands of aircrafts each day,” the agency said.

There really are a lot of snowy owls flocking to New York this year, according to Cornell University ornithologist Kevin McGowan, an owl specialist. When a bird shows up in an area that it doesn’t normally frequent, birders call that an irruption.

With snowy owls, “it’s an irruption year of this unpredictable arctic bird,” McGowan wrote in an email. “Periodically they come out of the far, frozen north and delight bird watchers in the northern states and southern Canada. This is shaping up to be one of the largest irruptions we have seen in the Northeast.”

Is climate change to blame for this particular crop of owls hanging out at JFK? Probably not, McGowan says.

“Although we are concerned about climate change effects on such high-arctic birds, this event is likely the result of local conditions in part of the range, and is not unprecedented,” he wrote.

Maybe it’s time to bring back a group of longtime JFK employees: trained falcons. Since the mid-1990s, the airport contracted the services of raptors to scare off birds from the runway. But the birds and their handlers were abruptly given pink slips in 2011 as a measure to cut costs.

“Falconry is just expensive,” Martin Lowney, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife-control service for New York state, told the Wall Street Journal at the time. “Compared to falconry, shooting is more economical and more effective.”

Many wildlife experts, however, say that falcons are better at training other birds to avoid airport areas.

“A falcon guarantees results every time,” Mark Adam, owner of Falcon Environmental Services, an Ontario-based company that provided falcons for JFK, told Wired in 2011. “The local birds know that our animals are eaters and they’re going to be lunch.”

But are falcons as effective against all kinds of birds? A Port Authority spokesman told the New York Daily News in 2009 that falcons are fine for scaring gulls, but don’t work against geese — hence the agency’s use of falcons at JFK, but not La Guardia, he said. Biologists, on the other hand, argue that falcons are fearsome enough to drive off everything but other raptors and vultures.

Peregrine falcons are quick and deadly, but relatively small — anywhere from 13 to 23 inches long, and weighing up to 3.3 pounds — compared with the snowy owl, which can reach up to 28 inches and more than 6 pounds. In 2012, birders in Illinois captured a face-off between a snowy owl and a peregrine falcon in the wild that basically ended in a draw. So there’s no guarantee that owls would be scared off as easily as the littler birds that falcons make a meal of.

Another method for keeping birds away from airports involves getting your hands a little dirty. Australian researchers recently visited Perth Airport and collected 77 bird carcasses for genetic analysis. But the target wasn’t the birds themselves; it was their their poop — or rather, pre-poop. The researchers extracted and analyzed the DNA from the mishmash of material inside the birds’ intestines, in order to figure out what the birds were eating. If airports can deduce what birds around airports are feeding on, they may be able to eliminate the plants and rodents that are drawing them.

Owls and geese aren’t the only animals that have felt the ire of the Port Authority. In 2007, the agency began trapping feral cats lurking in the cargo areas of JFK. Why? The authorities worried that the cats’ food, left by sympathetic airport employees, would attract birds.

New York Wildlife Viewing Guide

DEC developed the New York Wildlife Viewing Guide with the help of partners including State Parks, Empire State Development, Audubon New York, The Nature Conservancy, NYC Parks and the Urban Park Rangers. The Guide describes more than 100 of the state’s best sites and will be available for E-readers, as well as in hard copy. Special offers are available so order now!