Big Apple Hawk Bites Chihuahua

Thomas Cullen, right, holds on to a hawk called Starbuck during a news conference in New York's Bryant Park as reporters move back from the bird, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2003. AP

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, located behind the landmark New York Public Library.

The hawk was quickly separated from the pooch Tuesday afternoon. 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 released.

The program, which aims to scare pigeons out of the park, could be finished. 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 anti-pigeon program.

The hawk, named Galan, was taken to Cullen's headquarters in Goshen, N.Y.

The Bryant Park Restoration Corp. picked up the vet's bill, Cullen said at a news conference with another of the sharp-taloned birds, Starbuck, perched on his left hand.

Daniel Biederman, executive director of the Bryant Park group, said the hawk program has been a success since it was started in April, with pigeon infestation down 50 percent and fewer complaints from visitors.

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 disagree.

"I don't think this should be done away with because of one misstep," Ward Miller, a lawyer from Glen Ridge, N.J., said of the hawks while taking his daily walk in Bryant Park. "This is a great idea. It's better than the alternatives, like poison."
  • Dan Collins

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