NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Pigeons are disappearing from New York City streets, but not for natural reasons.

As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, some say the birds meet a violent death across state lines after being illegally snatched up in broad daylight.

Pigeons are affectionately – or perhaps derisively – called flying rats. Indeed, they may not be the most beloved New York City wildlife.

But the NYPD said removing them from city streets is illegal.

That has not seemed to stop one man, who was seen trapping at least a dozen unsuspecting birds in Greenpoint, Brooklyn earlier this week.

“It’s really bizarre,” said one woman who witnessed the trapping.

The woman, who does not want to be identified, said birdseed was used as a lure

“With a massive net — looked like a big butterfly net — he captured a bunch of pigeons and threw them in to a van, and then drove off,” she said.

Someone who appeared to be the same man was captured on cellphone video in the East Village last year, walking away with a net full of birds.

In the most recent incident, he was seen on surveillance video walking down the sidewalk with the large net and he appeared to pounce on the unsuspecting birds just around the corner. Another angle showed some pigeons fluttering away after the net was thrown.

The man hurries across the street with his catch to the waiting van.

“It’s obvious that he knew what he was doing was wrong, and he was probably doing something kind of nefarious with the pigeons and that’s why he didn’t want to be caught,” the woman said.

The Humane Society of the United States said the practice is an ongoing problem.

“Pigeon netting has been going on for some time,” said Brian Shapiro of the Humane Society.

The Humane Society claimed the pigeons caught in New York are sold across state lines to Pennsylvania, one of the few states that allows live pigeon shoots.

The practice is controversial, but legislative bills to end it in that state have never passed.

“I think it’s more than coincidence that whenever we see events happening in Pennsylvania, that we hear of pigeon nettings happening here in New York City,” Shapiro said.

The Humane Society of the United States said there is a bird shooting event in Pennsylvania this weekend. But where the birds are coming from is unclear.


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