Thursday, July 13, 2017

Coming and Goings With Central Park Wildlife

From The New York Times of 2003:

Central Park is New York's Twilight Zone -- and not just at dusk. Noirish things happen there. A dog can be murdered by a swan. When Donna Karan's Jack Russell terrier, Petey, swam too close to a nest on the lake island three years ago, the panicked mother swan forced the dog's head underwater until he drowned. (The swan and her mate both died last month, one of old age, the other, apparently, of heartbreak.)

''Central Park has a strange edge because New York has a strange edge,'' said Kenneth T. Jackson, president of the New-York Historical Society.

Henry J. Stern, who led the Parks Department from 1983 to 1990 and from 1994 to 2002, had just taken over when torrential rains flooded the sea lion pool at the zoo. ''The sea lions took off and were making their way to Fifth Avenue when the keepers caught them,'' he said.

But did a sea lion really once rise from its pool with a gun in its teeth, as the New Yorker writer Eugene Kinkead wrote in his book ''Central Park'' (1990)? Mr. Stern and a predecessor, Gordon J. Davis, can't recall that, but Mr. Davis, who served from 1978 to 1983, was there when two chimpanzees broke out to lead police emergency units on a merry chase. ''Unless you deal with loose chimps, you have no idea how strong they are,'' said Mr. Davis, who afterward laid down the law: ''Either we get stronger locks or dumber chimps.''

A gray wolf once escaped from a kennel and found refuge in the park. Coyotes have been caught there. Two years ago the myth of an alligator in Central Park took form when a two-foot caiman was pulled from the Harlem Meer. Jellyfish have been found in the sailboat pond. People secretly plant personal shrubs in the park -- and bury small pets there.

''It's pretty harmless,'' Mr. Stern said.

The park's most ubiquitous mammal is the Norway rat, impervious to all eradication schemes, including the construction of owl houses to attract the birds to prey on the rats. The owls didn't give a hoot.

In 2001 a serial poisoner attacked pigeons at the northern end of the park. The Parks Department issued leaflets calling on the perpetrator to stop, and he or she did. Old trees in the park are lovingly trussed up. ''People have canes and walkers,'' Mr. Stern said. ''Why not cables for the trees to see them through their senior years?''

No comments: