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Monk parakeets get to fly

December 07, 2005 | Monk Parakeet
By Ken Dixon, published in The Connecticut Post on December 7, 2005

Deal allows UI to destroy nests but not send birds to death

A showdown over the extermination of hundreds of monk parakeets was short-circuited in Superior Court in New Haven Tuesday, after The United Illuminating Co. promised to cease capturing the birds - for the time being.

Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien-based Friends of Animals, was relieved that dozens or more birds that have escaped capture - and death - will not be asphyxiated.

She said, however, it was a Pyrrhic victory, after about 200 of the gregarious green birds were killed in the UI's three-week campaign to remove nests from 103 utility poles from West Haven to Fairfield.

The Friends of Animals withdrew their court challenge Tuesday after UI agreed to stop netting the birds and turning them over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has been destroying them in carbon dioxide chambers.

A spokesman for UI, which said the nests had to be removed to prevent outages and fires, downplayed the deal reached Tuesday, stressing that the nest-eradication effort remains on schedule, although no more birds would be captured and killed this month.

"The point is, we may never know whether they were done gassing the birds or not," Feral said. "We know a lot escaped and UI had planned on going back and getting every one they could."

She said she wished the lawsuit could have been filed sooner, but it took three weeks to research the case.

But the free birds will have to confront the winter without their nests, as the UI pulls down their thatched-stick shelters, which can weigh 200 pounds or more. Feral said her animal rights group will return to court in January to try to protect the pigeon-sized birds over the long term. "It a terrible time of year to yank their nests down," she said.

Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, co-chairman of the Legislature's Environment Committee, said he is relieved that UI's eradication plan was apparently altered. Roy credited rising public pressure against the utility as the reason the company let the remaining birds go.

"This gives us some breathing room in the Legislature to develop some amendments for the law that has allowed the UI to capture these birds and give them to the USDA," Roy said. Roy said there was no reason for UI to kill the birds that have survived - mostly in fir trees and oaks - along the Connecticut shore for 30 years. Albert Carbone, UI's spokesman, would not say that the Friends of Animals won any concessions during a closed-door meeting Tuesday in the chambers of Superior Court Judge Linda K. Lager.

"It's just part of the work plan," Carbone said. "We didn't alter our work plan in response to the complaint."

Alan Schwartz, a New Haven attorney representing UI, issued a statement after the meeting, saying: "As planned, the remaining work involves the removal of the inventoried nests and any parakeets encountered in this phase of the work will not be captured. UI has no plans to capture more parakeets during the remainder of the year."

Derek V. Oatis, a Manchester lawyer representing Friends of Animals, said he believes that UI did not raid all of the nests and that a substantial number of birds will now avoid euthanasia at the hands of the USDA.

"All that I know is that as of Friday, when I agreed to bring the action, UI were continuing to capture more birds," he said. "My understanding is there were a number of inventoried nests they hadn't gotten to yet. I don't care how anyone spins it, if there aren't birds being killed it's a good thing."

The Friends of Animals lawsuit included testimony from Dwight G. Smith, a monk parakeet expert who is chairman of the biology department at Southern Connecticut State University. He said that the monk parakeets - actually parrots because of their long tails - have established a niche in the state's ecosystem.

Carbone said it may take weeks to remove the nests.

"If there are birds, they'll just fly away," Carbone said.

The premise of the campaign was to clear transformers and poles for public safety and electric reliability, he said. Customers will receive a week's notice of any planned UI outages as the nests are pulled down with grappling hooks.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, a member of the Agriculture Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, questioning the extermination campaign, requesting that he explore other options. U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, D-4, a Bridgeport resident who has seen the monk parakeets in his neighborhood, also wrote to the USDA, expressing his concern about the euthanization of the colorful birds.

By Ken Dixon, published in The Connecticut Post on December 7, 2005. Washington bureau writer Peter Urban contributed to this report.

Comments

This is pure bullshit, lawyer double speak. These nest-less birds are still going to die from exposure from our winter climate. We need to continue our efforts to stop the killing, no they won't be gassed immediately, it will probably take a few hours for the winter climate to kill them now. I see little improvement here. Next protest is when? Sincerely, Ken Bernacky Blog editors' note: Ken, you're right to say that the birds without nests will be in a pitiful position. We can give you these quotes from the Associated Press, from a just-printed article called "Power Company Says It Won't Capture Any More Birds This Year" (6 Dec 2005) -- we're in this for real policy change. Keep struggling, and thank you. Here are the quotes from the article -- and note the bottom line. [Friends of Animals President Priscilla] Feral said she would like UI to leave the nests alone until spring, and her group plans to file a lawsuit in January that would force UI to deal with the nests in a more humane way. "The question is whether they will get through the winter without a nest or time to rebuild them," she said. U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said the decision to stop the gassing of the birds will give officials more time to find a humane way to relocate the birds' nests. "The bottom line is there has been an incredible outpouring of support for these animals, and we need to work with the USDA, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and United Illuminating Co. to find another viable approach," Shays said.

THANK GOD! I only wish that they would not take the nests yet either. At least their little lives have been sparedfor the time being if they can survive the bitter cold. I think we should continue to press everyone to get them to stop the nest removal too. Still no more lights for christmas at my house and my bill will be paid late. Spit in the ocean, but what ever I can do, I will. I want to sincerely thank Laurel and Friends of Animals for their persistance and very hard work. You will have my continued support in the future, because you are truly "FRIENDS OF ANIMALS" and not some radical group that does crazy things. You really care.

Wonderful news but I am still hesitant about UI and others. What happens if they attempt to kill? Do THEY get arrested? I hope someone is watching when they take the nests down without the birds inside. Is that going to be done during the day and when?? which still is mean and cruel in winter ) What is the urgency after all these years?? Can UI answer that.?? It makes much more sense to take nests down in early spring, when its warmer and they can rebuild nests elsewhere while people pole watch, so they do not build on poles. Not a very hard thing to do. Its far from over but this hopefully is a positive step. We are still watching and will continue too, MORE THAN EVER.

Bitter victory I guess. Those few who are fortunate to be spared will be in for the surprise of their little lives when they go home and find no nest. I sit here powerless in Boston but wish more than anything I could offer some safe haven for them. This has sickened me for the past week. The efforts of everyone involved deserves some recognition--while they couldn't all be saved, this is certainly a victory for concerned and human people everywhere.

Keep the pressure on UI - their track record on honesty has been less than stellar. They should still have to back up their claims about the birds being a "safety & health hazard". Monk parakeets in CT need to be protected without further delay - let's get some laws passed.

I just heard Carbone(UI spokesman) say they got all of the birds? (200 gassed )So thats why they are stopping!!?? I feel this is a stall tactic for the holidays and they will resume the cruelty after the New Year. I hope we all stay on our toes through the holidays etc and that we get more armour to fight these people: UI, DEP, USDA. CT AUDUBON SOCIETY when they decide to resume in January. I think they feel everyone is so distracted because of the holidays that this will subside and go away. It will not at my end and I hope others join in and feel the same. Need many a lawsuit and new protective laws for the animals/wildlife. Hurray!! for the kind people out there.

This is great news. I know there is surviving birds.Another way for U.I. to tell some more lies.Im here for any assistance you may need, protest, vigil.Keep up the great work.

tHESE BIRDS HAVE MADE SO MANY RESIDENTS HAPPY, AND PROUD OF THEIR AREA, THERE IS nO REASON NOR RIGHT TO KILL THEM!! Please call gov jody rell, the best gov we have ever had and ask for her help. This is ridiculous. Maureen Blog editor's note: Gov. Rell opted out of the discussion and decided to do nothing. The best governor in the last couple of decades was Gov. Ella Grasso. She expressed her sensitivity toward animals by getting involved -- demanding accountability from politicians.

God bless all you hardworking saints and the unnumbered army of those who pushed this over the top

We need to stay on top of this! They will not rest YET! The parrots are left without an evironment in which to live! I will not have any holiday lights and I am being VERY CONSERVATIVE in all my electric use. The only thing they understand is the ALMIGHTY $$$ Stop spending as much as you can with the power companies! I am in TEXAS not CT. But I think everywhere should be active on this front. God Bless you for fighting the good fight Let's keep it up!

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