Rosie harassed by two squirrel-feeders tonight - December 13th, 2013

Bobby and Rosie caught and ate one rat each from Washington Square Park today. I took many photos that I will share in an upcoming post.

I am reserving this post instead to share what happened today when Rosie was aggressively (and illegally) harassed by a couple of squirrel-feeders and the verbal altercation I had with them while I was trying to protect Rosie. 

I and other Hawk-watchers have witnessed the main 'harasser', the woman in the photos below, try to attack Rosie in the past.

For example, on November 25th of last year she tried to kick Rosie when Rosie was hunting near the squirrels the woman was feeding. I called the Department of Environmental Conservation emergency contact number to report the event and find out if they could help. 

I spoke with one of their police officers who came to the park soon afterward. By that time the woman had left the park. But he and I kept in touch via email for a little while as he continued his investigation (in part by returning to the park in plainclothes a couple of times to try to spot the woman harassing the Hawks) but he was unsuccessful and did not get to see her in the act.

Below is the email and accompanying photos I sent him to report tonight's new occurrence. I included Sarah Neilson, the Washington Square Park administrator, and Veronica White, the Parks Commissioner, on the email:

Dear Officer (name redacted),

We wrote with each other last year regarding the woman who illegally harasses the Red-tailed Hawks that live in Washington Square Park. I included our original correspondence and the photos I sent you last year in the hopes of jogging your memory.

I added a few more photos (dated today) of that same woman and a male companion harassing one of the Hawks today. I included a photo of the Hawk itself sitting in a tree near them.

Today around 4:30PM the woman and her male companion were feeding the squirrels in Washington Square Park as usual. Sarah Neilson, Washington Square Park Administrator, wrote in an email to me on September 26th of this year that feeding of squirrels was illegal by the way.

At the same time they were feeding the squirrels,  I was following the female Red-tailed Hawk Rosie around the park, photographing her as she flew from tree to tree.

It was at 4:30 when Rosie flew to and landed on a tree near the two squirrel-feeders to hunt. The woman and man harassed her, screaming at her, waving their arms at her, and trying to scare her away from the area. Rosie landed on the ground near them too in an attempt to catch a rat. Since Rosie was in a vulnerable position there, I stood by so the two could not get close enough to hit her. As you may recall from our email exchange last year, I and friends have seen her try to kick the Hawks in the past. So tonight I stood close by to prevent that from happening.

I told the two that it was illegal to harass the Hawks and they then screamed at me too, questioning which law said so. I replied, "It's against Parks Department rules to harass them" (as in Section 1-04, subsection G - http://www.nycgovparks.org/rules/section-1-04). They went ballistic, telling me they had every right to protect "their animals" and for me to shut my "big fucking trap", etc. They then continued to try to scare Rosie away (who eventually did fly away). There was a crowd watching this all take place so at least I had witnesses (even though I didn't ask anyone for their names).

I had seen PEP officers in the park a few minutes beforehand and went to look for them for assistance but I couldn't find them.

I'm sending this account to you in the hopes that you please come back to the park (or have another officer who could assist) to issue her and her companion a citation. I hadn't seen that man in the park before but I know that that woman (the same woman as in my email from last year) is in the park just about every afternoon to feed the squirrels from about 4:00PM - 5:30PM.

The best location to find her is at the northwest corner of the park, at what's called the Hangman's Elm, leaving out food for the squirrels. Link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangman%27s_Elm.


Please let me know if you need any more information and please keep me posted on any updates you may have regarding this.

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Photos from today:






Photos from November 25th, 2012:





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Morning of December 14 update: 

I don't expect my letter will accomplish much but that won't stop me from advocating for/protecting the Hawks when I see this sort of abuse toward them occurring.

What I didn't add to my letter were the following details. When I saw Rosie fly to and land on the tree near the squirrel-feeders I knew there would be trouble since the woman has repeatedly behaved menacingly toward Rosie in the past. Bobby is more cautious when he hunts and does not stay on low branches next to people as long as Rosie does. So really, it's Rosie who this woman bothers due to their proximity to one another.

When I told the pair that harassing the Hawks was illegal they both lost it and started to yell at me, screaming over each other so I could only make out a few words at a time. She asked, "What law?? Your law??" and, "Well, my husband's a lawyer...!" while he yelled, "It's not illegal when you're trying to save your animals! You save your animals, I'll save mine! We have every right to protect our animals so you shut your big fucking trap!" They were literally screaming at me while I stood there in place.

A small crowd of park-goers was watching and I was glad because it may have helped prevent the squirrel-feeders from losing self-control and going after the bird. I could hear them excitedly point out the Hawk to each other but then become bewildered at the screaming man and woman.

It seemed clear that getting into an argument or attempting to reason with the pair would be fruitless and may escalate the situation so the only things I repeated were that it was illegal to harass the birds and that it was against Parks Department regulation. I kept looking around for the Parks Enforcement Patrol officers I saw on the other side of the park in the hopes they could assist but I didn't see them anywhere.

The woman grabbed small sticks and banged them against the Hangman's Elm when squirrels would climb down to get the food the pair had left out for them in order to scare them up the tree and presumably out of harm's way (meanwhile I had seen that Rosie was hunting for rat but there was no point in my trying to explain that). I can imagine it was pretty confusing for the squirrels since they were expecting food and yet were being scared back up the tree.

She then dropped her stick and walked in a circle like a chicken in front of Rosie's branch and yelled out, "I'm harassing the Hawk! Harassing the Hawk!" It was pretty astonishing and sad at the same time. 

Rosie finally flew to a tree further south and hunted for and caught a rat on the ground beneath her there.

I went looking for the PEP officers after Rosie ate some of the rat and flew it to a building to eat/drop off for later. I never found the officers. I went to the maintenance station/office and knocked on the door but no one answered so I figured I might as well write a formal letter to the DEC officer who came out to assist last time since it looked like the man and woman had left the park and he wouldn't have anyone to cite/question should he come to the park then anyway.