Washington Square Park Maintenance Issues Remain Unaddressed, City Opts To Place Ineffective and Hawk-Killing Rodenticide in Park (See Update: Rodenticide Removed!)

Updated!

Overflow trash in open top containers

8:24 p.m. — Good news! Roger Paw blogger wrote in to say that the bait boxes have been removed! See more info from that blog here. Now, if the park maintenance issues can be addressed…

Original post follows —

Washington Square Park has been rodenticide-free for awhile – but no longer. Rodenticide bait traps have been placed in locations in the park. (I had a feeling this was coming.)

Throughout New York City this year, Red-tailed hawks have been poisoned by “secondary poisoning” (eating a poisoned rat). Rodenticide is not the answer. Proper maintenance of trash is the only solution —  this has been proven again and again, and yet, at Washington Square, containment of the park’s trash is a serious problem. This is a Parks Department maintenance issue and also education issue of park users. However, if trash cans are full and not emptied, that compounds the problem.

The latest from Hawk cam chat member City Woman who writes:

Many devoted hawk watchers spent the last few weeks writing and calling various City officials concerning plans we learned of to put rat poison in Washington Square Park. Unfortunately, we learned yesterday that our pleas fell on deaf ears as evidence of the lack of commitment to a poison-free sanitation plan for the park was revealed by posts from photographer/blogger Roger_Paw.

The only real control of rodents comes from proper sanitation. What is so disappointing and frustrating about the Parks Department decision is that there is so much room for improvement in this park. To even think of risking the life of the hawks, who are seen in the park almost daily and get many of their meals there, through the secondary poisoning that can occur when a non-target animal eats a poisoned rat is disgraceful. Their decision shows no real commitment to getting to the root of the problem; they are only going for the quick temporary fix.

Bobby and Rosie, Washington Square’s Red-tailed Hawks

The pictures were taken in the park this past Saturday by a member of Stop the Poison (STP), a group formed to oppose the use of poisons in our parks.

Currently, almost all trash cans in Washington Square Park have open tops. If, the trash is not removed by evening or tops are not put on the cans, there is an open invitation to rats. In addition, a walk through the park, reveals almost no signage about proper disposal of food and the reasons why it is needed.

Washington Square Park could be a perfect location to show how proper sanitary methods can decrease the rodent population, if not completely, at least substantially, without the use of poison.

Suggestions made to NYC Parks Department officials by Stop The Poison:

Solar powered waste compactors (as used in Philadelphia and other locations)
Rat-proof garbage cans
Rodent-repellent trash bags
Summonses for littering
Carry in, Carry out waste policy (bring your lunch or snack with you; take your garbage out with you)
Revision of landscaping that is conducive to rat tunnels

Please ask your readers to insist that a commitment be demonstrated to make the park a model of excellence in bringing all possible resources and expertise to bear rather than resorting to toxic poisons that make each meal a lethal game of chance for our precious wildlife.

“Discarded trash everywhere! In flower beds, under benches, under trees … accumulated for days!”

In addition, a reader, Brant, sent in this comment earlier in the week:

In Washington Square Park this morning (October 6, 2012) and found it so disgusting ! Discarded trash everywhere ! In flower beds, under benches, under trees, everywhere!!!!
The people responsible for cleaning the park are incredibly inept!
We are not talking about trash that accumulated overnight but for many days!
Not only that for a few blocks on each side of University Place, not one garbage pail! Not one!
What will be done? I will contact immediately 311, and for what it’s worth, complain to them as well as the Sanitation Department!

Washington Square East

“Rats” author (and NY resident) Robert Sullivan very clear on how ineffective rodenticide is

I’ve written before on this blog about the problem of rodenticide in our city parks — seven or eight new york city hawks have died this year alone – and would like to reiterate the following (which the Parks Department should know):

Author Robert Sullivan, who studied rats in the city and wrote about his discoveries in his book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” states that removing garbage and the rats’ food source is the key, even tho’ no one considers that was the “sexier” solution – it IS the solution.

Sullivan consulted with David E. Davis, the “founding father of modern rat studies” who determined:

“when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. ‘Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,’ Davis wrote.”

When I told reader Brant that the city’s Parks Department was putting poison out, he said:

Rat poison is the easy way out !
It’s again, putting a band-aid on the problem !  One must be pro-active and they, are reactive !

So true.

This would be an opportunity for new Parks Commissioner Veronica White to take a position her predecessor, Adrian Benepe, would not. Instead of focusing on privatizing public parks, how about creating better models of our existing ones?

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What you can DO; Suggestions from City Woman and Stop the Poison:

Following are some of the NYC Parks Department officials people can write or call:

Veronica M. White, NYC Parks Commissioner, Veronica.White@parks.nyc.gov
First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, liam.kavanagh@parks.nyc.gov phone #212-360-1307
William T. Castro, NYC Dep’t of Parks, Manhattan Borough Commissioner: william.castro@parks.nyc.gov; #212-408-0201
Namshik Yoon, Chief of Operations, Namshik.Yoon@parks.nyc.gov; #212-408-0212
Ralph Musolino, Park Manager, Manhattan District 1 & 2; Ralph.Musolino@parks.nyc.gov; #212-797-3142

And here are some things individuals can do to help:
IF YOU WANT TO SAVE OUR HAWKS: Do Not Use Mouse and Rat Poisons, Pellets or Blocks on Your Property
1.) Tell your building management to use covered, latching trash containers and traps instead of poison.
2.) Educate your local institutions and merchants to do the same.
3.) Ask government officials to support a ban on the sale of anticoagulant rodenticides (five California cities have done so).
4.) CONTACT STOPTHEPOISON@AOL.COM to find out what else you can do.

Photos 1 & 3: Stop The Poison

Middle Photo: Bobby & Rosie in Washington Square Park, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Credit: Roger_Paw Blog

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Two of Central Park’s Fledgling Red-Tailed Hawks’ Lives in Jeopardy — Rat Poison Likely The Culprit

sick young hawk in tree near Museum

Near Central Park, two fledglings hawks, children to famed Red-tailed Hawk Pale Male and mate  Zena, are in precarious health, believed to be poisoned by secondary poisoning after their parents fed them a rat poisoned by rodenticide. The Pale Male Irregulars Blog has been updating regularly since Monday (July 23rd) first via an alert from Central Park hawkwatcher Jeff Johnson:

Very bad news–one fledgling was found sick in an enclosed space on the American Museum of Natural History grounds yesterday and is now in the care of the Horvath Rehabilitators. This second fledgling is displaying symptoms of rat poisoning also…it has not left the tree it has been perched in for almost two days now and refused to eat a meal left in plain view.

Pale Male’s previous mate, Ginger Lima, died from secondary rodenticide poisoning earlier this year.

At Washington Square Park, in May of last year, the Parks Department agreed to remove all the rat poison at the park.

Rehabilitators Bobby and Cathy Horvath, who were involved in the rescue of Washington Square’s Violet (who died last year), wrote on their Facebook page Monday:

The Fifth Avenue fledgling had blood work done today and we should have results tomorrow. He looked a little better than yesterday , is perching well and bright eyed and alert this morning and is keeping food down. We are treating it even before results for poisoning and frounce too but don’t know how much pigeon is eaten compared to definite rats being consumed regularly.

The other young hawk, pictured above, is not faring well; he has not been rescued yet (he is in a difficult position to intercept) and he is not eating although he has moved (himself) between at least two trees.

In response to this, and the death of six other hawks this year in our city parks (!), there’s a petition to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to stop the murder of our Red Tailed Hawks in NYC:

Stop the MET, Museum of Natural History and Central Park Precinct from indirectly killing wildlife. … We are privileged to be able to watch them [Red Tailed Hawks] build their nests, raise and lovingly care for their young all while enriching our lives in this urban jungle. … We, are the fortunate ones being able to witness this incredible sight. Unfortunately, we also get to see them die. Their death is a slow, painful and torturous one. The type of poison that these institutes use for rodent control is deadly, not only to our majestic birds, but to all wildlife, our families and our own pets. We are all interconnected, what happens to one, happens to all of us. This year alone, there were 6 deaths of our magnificent Red Tail Hawks in the NYC area, (that we know of), from this type of poison. At present, we are watching two of the legendary Pale Male babies dying, because of this poison.

I wrote last year at the time the Parks Department agreed to remove the poison about rethinking rat poison in our city:

Meanwhile, it might be time to rethink rat poison in our city parks in general.

In Robert Sullivan’s book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” he interviews David E. Davis, “the founding father of modern rat studies.”

Sullivan writes: [Davis] consulted with cities on their rats, preaching his most important discovery throughout the country – that poisoning rats was not in itself an effective way of controlling them. In fact, when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. “Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,” Davis wrote.

The only way to get rid of rats was to get rid of the rat food, or garbage, but no one wanted to hear this: as it was the dawn of the age of ecology so also it was the dawn of the age of the chemical, of poisons and pesticides, and people seemed to want a sexier, chemical-based fix.

Seems they still do.

Parks Department says Rodenticide Removed at Washington Square. (And yet…) On Rethinking Use of Poison in Our Parks

Rat Poison Sign Washington Sq Park

The City’s Parks Department told the New York Times yesterday (May 6th) that they were removing the rodenticide “bait stations” at Washington Square that day to accommodate red-tailed hawk couple Violet and Bobby and their newborn hatchlings now residing above the park. This is good news!

However, at 7 p.m. yesterday, bait stations were still visible along Washington Square South and Washington Square East behind Phase II construction fences and close to the Bobst Library; the building’s 12th floor ledge accommodates Violet and Bobby’s nest.

From New York Times City Room Blog, “The Dangers of Rat Poison”:

bait station at base of tree washington sq south

The main threat Bobby and Violet’s brood face, and it is a serious one, is from Bobby bringing home a poisoned rat for dinner. Rat poisoning is believed to have caused the death last month of an adult male red-tail in Riverside Park, state officials say.

The city parks department regularly sets poison in rat burrows in Washington Square Park, which the hawks’ nest looks out on. But in anticipation of a possible hawk hatch, the department has refrained from doing so since April 22.

bait station, washington square east

“We will not be placing additional rat poison in the park while the hawks are fledging,” Phil Abramson, a parks spokesman, said in an e-mail Friday.

“Parks staff is searching the park today to make sure there are no bait boxes or any other signs of poison remaining.”

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Hopefully, those remaining bait stations, pictured above left, were located and removed today.

Meanwhile, it might be time to rethink rat poison in our city parks in general.

In Robert Sullivan’s book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” he interviews David E. Davis, “the founding father of modern rat studies.”

Sullivan writes: [Davis] consulted with cities on their rats, preaching his most important discovery throughout the country – that poisoning rats was not in itself an effective way of controlling them. In fact, when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. “Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,” Davis wrote.

The only way to get rid of rats was to get rid of the rat food, or garbage, but no one wanted to hear this: as it was the dawn of the age of ecology so also it was the dawn of the age of the chemical, of poisons and pesticides, and people seemed to want a sexier, chemical-based fix.

Seems they still do.

Photos: Cathryn

Yesterday’s WSP Blog Post: Violet and Bobby Nest-Watch: Baby Hawk Spotted! On Heels of Riverside Park Hawk’s Death, Can We Rid Washington Square of Hazardous Rodenticide?

Update: In a tense turn of events, not poison-related, Violet’s foot is entwined in plastic netting leg is being constricted by a wildlife identification band placed there by a researcher. Wildlife rehabilitators and hawk experts Bobby and Cathy Horvath are coming today to see if they can help and somehow spring her from it! [5/9: They will be attempting a rescue mission from the window ledge to remove the band in the next few days. The bands don’t usually cause this to happen but it does make you wonder in general about placing bands on birds and other animals. ]