December 31, 2013 at 5:17 pm #1868MikeKeymaster
Hundreds of dead birds litter lawns in Franklin
By WALTER O’BRIEN • Staff Writer • January 25, 2009
FRANKLIN (Somerset) —Hundreds of dead birds have fallen across the southern part of the township, and at least one resident who found her lawn and car littered with the carcasses Saturday is being told she has to clean up the mess.
Andrea Kipec of Park Lane was reeling Saturday after she found more than 150 dead birds on her property, and dozens more at her neighbors’ homes.
Kipec said she learned the U.S. Department of Agriculture might have some involvement after she called police Friday night, Jan. 23, to ask what to do about a small quantity of dead birds she found on her car and driveway.
“They said they had an e-mail about poisoning of birds from the USDA Wildlife Service targeting blackbirds and starlings,” Kipec said.
She said police told her that she had to clean up the bird carcasses.
“I said to myself, what am I going to do, I want to move my car but I don’t want to touch the dead birds,” Kipec said Saturday during a phone interview. “I just counted again and stopped at about 130, not counting about 20 more in the gutters of the house.”
Animal-control officer Katie Nordhaus said Saturday that she had no knowledge of a bird kill and couldn’t say anything more until speaking with the township health department tomorrow.
Despite numerous attempts Saturday, neither the USDA’s Wildlife Services state office in the Pittstown section of Union Township in Hunterdon County, nor Mayor Brian Levine could be reached for comment. Township Health Official Walter Galanowsky and Office of Emergency Management Coordinator J. Gary Howard also could not be reached for comment.
Sgt. Philip Rizzo, township police spokesman, said that he was aware of an e-mailed memorandum from the USDA warning the community about the possibility of large numbers of dead-bird sightings, but he could neither provide a copy of the e-mail, nor provide all the information contained in it.
“I have no way to give you another agency’s release,” Rizzo said. “That would be for the USDA to do.”
Rizzo confirmed that the USDA on Friday informed police of a “legitimate operation,” adding that neither avian flu nor West Nile virus were factors.
He said he had no information about the reason for the USDA operation, where it took place, any methods used, or if those methods would be lethal or harmful to people, children or pets.
“It was a legitimate USDA operation,” Rizzo said. “But the memo said to instruct the public to use shovels, gloves and plastic bags to dispose of the birds.”
Rizzo said the memo was addressed to Franklin Township, but also noted that “surrounding municipalities” might be affected by the dead birds.
“Something like that would have crossed my desk,” Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler said Saturday. “Typically, when a federal agency does something out of the ordinary like that, they inform us.”
New Brunswick Public Information Officer Bill Bray said Saturday that he was unaware of a USDA operation in the area.
Jack Connolly of Park Lane in Griggstown said he, too, was concerned because his Labrador retrievers like to put dead birds in their mouths and bring them to the house.
“Last night I went out first and threw two dead birds in the garbage,” said Connolly, who is involved in township open space issues, including the creation of bird sanctuaries. “When I went out this morning (Saturday) there were another 12 or so.”
Walter O’Brien: 908-707-3163
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