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Monk Parakeets Gain Legal Protection

September 28, 2006 | Monk Parakeet

KEN DIXON
Connecticut Post

Animal rights activists have won in their attempt to protect shoreline monk parakeets colonies from slaughter at the hands of the United Illuminating Co. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A state trial referee in New Haven Superior Court last week ruled against UI's motion to dismiss a request to prevent the type of capture-and-slaughter program that resulted in the deaths of 179 of the bright green parrots last year.

The decision may already be paying dividends. UI officials said Wednesday that while they plan to remove new nests from dozens of utility poles in October, they will not use lethal methods, instead allowing the birds to fly away. In a 19-page decision, Judge Trial Referee David W. Skolnick ruled that UI never developed a way to discourage the birds from nesting in its wooden utility poles. "Therefore, it is likely that the birds will continue to do so," Skolnick wrote, noting that alternatives exist.

"The defendant's failure to implement these measures is likely to cause the unnecessary destruction of monk parakeets, unnecessary harm to other species of wildlife, and impairment of the public trust in the ability of the state to protect its natural resources" in violation of state law, Skolnick wrote.

Priscilla Feral, president of the Friends of Animals group, said Wednesday that she hopes the decision paves the way for a court-ordered discovery phase, including an in-depth investigation into UI's long-term maintenance plan for utility poles and potential alternatives to capturing and killing.

Derek V. Oatis, Friends of Animals' attorney, said the ruling is important.

"For me, the biggest thing is that UI has claimed that its hands are tied by state or federal law and they had no choice but to gas these birds," Oatis said Wednesday. "The judge said that's not true as a matter of law." Feral, who began the legal challenge last year after the eradication program was first reported in the Connecticut Post, said killing animals is never the right response.

"The judge agreed there might be alternatives that UI didn't try," Feral said. "Certainly, companies that can light up every home in the region can find methods to spare parrots' lives.

"As the case proceeds, we're confident that the law will be changed to reflect the most enlightened attributes of the residents of our state."

Last November, UI crews raided the large nests and turned captured birds over to USDA crews, which asphyxiated them with carbon dioxide.

Dwight G. Smith, chairman of Southern Connecticut State University's Biology Department and an expert on the state's monk parakeets, agreed there are better ways to deal with the birds than killing them.

"United Illuminating has the right to protect its customers, but I hope that they will not again resort to slaughtering these interesting and entertaining birds," said Smith, who in court documents is prepared to testify on behalf of the Friends of Animals.

While most of southwestern Connecticut's monk parakeets nest in trees, Smith said UI has continually ignored his attempts to research whether the birds on poles can be enticed to nest elsewhere. Meanwhile, UI said on Wednesday that as early as next week, it will begin a non-lethal nest-removal program that does not include capture of the gregarious parrots.

While last year's $125,000 program resulted in public controversy and the eventual removal of 119 nests in West Haven, Milford, Stratford and Bridgeport, surviving birds returned to nest at nearly half the utility poles, according to Albert Carbone, the UI spokesman.

Carbone downplayed the ruling. "It's just a technical decision," he said. "The case proceeds to the next stage of litigation because the decision is not on the merits of the case."

Carbone said the next step is the company's response to the FOA complaint, including the denial of breaking any laws that might protect the birds, which have lived in the state since the early 1970s.

"We're confident that if and when this is heard on its merits, the court will reject the Friends of Animals' claims of wrongdoing," Carbone said.

He said that in June, around the time Skolnick heard arguments in New Haven, birds had restarted nests on 39 poles, which have now more than doubled, to 76.

Forty-nine colonies have reformed on poles in West Haven; 19 in Stratford, one in Bridgeport; none in Fairfield and Milford; five in New Haven and two in East Haven. The birds live in colonies of up to 40 members.

This week, six UI customers in West Haven were without power for more than an hour, an outage that Carbone said was caused by a parrot nest, which was then knocked down.

"In the next couple of weeks we'll go and knock down those nests," Carbone said. "It's important to say we have no plans to capture birds. This is something that has been advocated by all parties."

Carbone said the breeding season finished in August, so this season's fledglings will be able to fly away when the crews arrive to reclaim the poles.

Comments

Looks like another win for Animal Activists - YEAH!!!

Amen! There is a God. Unfortunatley too late for those parakeets who were killed but at least this is a start for the others. It's a beginning to show this is the 21st century and their are humane ways to solve animal problems and ways to live in harmony with all.

I had such a hard day at work, and after reading your email, I feel great again!! It seemed that looking for an alternative to gasing was too difficult for teh people at UI. Everyone should do their job right, especially when working with innocent wildlife. Hurray for the monk parakeet!

help these poor babies

Congratulations to all the animal activists who helped save these beautiful creatures! The monk parakeet finally has a voice through these giving individuals. Thank you!!

How could they be so cruel and babarick. these birds are nature's survivors they need to be left alone. Or build alternate nest for them .Big business in this country is disgraceful. All they think of is murdering these poor helpless creatures that might get in their way.

I wish there was a way to set up pairs of these birds up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire where. The unwanted little birds be adopted in stead of being killed. I have adopted 11 different unwanted birds and would love to adopt a pair or see coloneys established in other area along the eastern coast. If piegons and starlings are aloud to room free so should these beautiful little chatters.What a wonderful sight it must be watching them all the time raising their young and flying around. thank you F.O.A for helping save them for all us nature watchers to enjoy.\ [Blog editors' note: What's needed is a change in the state statute so that these parrots receive protection from utility companies who are too lazy to maintain their utility poles, and who use the statute as justification for gassing these birds. Thankfully, Connecticut law already prevents the capture of these birds for the pet trade. ]

It is of no surprise to me that here in america we resort to murdering beautiful birds instead of trying to find an alternative way of preventing them from nesting in telephone polls. We should never criticize the techniques of other countries such as china which recently bludgeoned to death approximately 50,000 dogs in reaction to a few deaths by rabies. America is a cruel country.

I am overjoyed that this effort has been successful. However, judging from what has happened in the past in other cases involving animals, I feel it is also necessary to initiate procedures to make sure this new policy is followed and the law is enforced. This will take constant monitoring of this situation. Our work is not over here. For the animals, Maxine M.

I don't think these birds are anymore of a nuisance than starlings, pigeons or Canada geese. These beautiful, social birds should be allowed to live. The only time they can become a hazard is if they build their nests on utility poles.

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