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Cops nab bizarre Prospect Park poachers

August 6, 2011

By Natalie O'Neill, BrooklynPaper.com

Cops have busted a group of oddball poachers in Prospect Park — a band of vagrants that was trapping and eating ducks, squirrels and pigeons.

Parks officers wrote four tickets — two for killing wildlife and two for illegal fishing — totaling $2,100 in fines during a two-day period last week.

The city would not immediately release details of the incidents, which occurred on July 17 and 18 — just days after park-goers told rangers about a “Beverly Hillbillies”-like scene on the southeast side of the lake, near the ice skating rink.

“This is a dodgy group,” said park-goer Peter Colon, who spotted one of the men catching a pigeon while his friend started a fire. “They are the most threatening people in the park.”

The disheveled — and possibly homeless — tribe in question uses “makeshift”
fishing poles and traps to catch the critters, then grills them over the fire, according to park watchdogs.

“One woman uses a net to bag the ducks,” said wildlife advocate Johanna Clearfield.

Wildlife advocates have long pushed the Parks Department to crackdown on illegal hunting and fishing in Prospect Park — especially after a stunning array of cases in which geese and cygnets were injured by illegal barbed fishhooks and lure.

In the most-dramatic case, a plucky little goose who lost the top half of his beak to a fishhook earned him endless sympathy and the nickname, “Beaky.”

The fishing and hunting ticket blitz comes while park-goers collect and document large mounds of fishing wire, claiming waterfowl are frequently get tangled.

And it’s not the first time that poachers have been busted. Last year, park-goers confronted a man after spotting him catching fish and secreting them into a bag — a violation of the city’s “catch-and-release” rules.

After being confronted, the man dumped the dead fish back into the lake.

The new poaching busts bring to mind last year’s wave of animal murders by the so-called “Butcher of Prospect Park,” whose death toll included waterfowl, chickens, turtles and a goat.

For now, wildlife advocates were hailing this month’s busts.

“The fact that they’re ticketing is great — it’s so badly needed,” said goose lover Mary Beth Artz. “I hope they keep it up.”

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