Pigeons—pervasive as pizzerias, insatiable as stockbrokers—are NYC's unofficial avian mascots, and it is every New Yorker's job to protect them just as emphatically as they must avoid feeding them. And now, our precious pigeons are under attack—Washington Square Park Blog reports that nearly 300 pigeons have been birdnapped from Washington Square Park, and the blog fears they're being sent to Pennsylvania for a live pigeon shoot this weekend. Reports suggest pigeons weren't stolen at all, but who are you going to believe, die-hard pigeon-lovers or cops in the pocket of Big...Bird?

Earlier this week, Washington Square Park Blog reported that hundreds of pigeons were netted in the park at around 3 p.m. on July 21st. Artist and animal activist Tina Trachtenberg told the blog that a witness named Larry saw two people "[p]ulling up the net and putting them [the pigeons] in the van” before driving away. The blog estimates that 250 to 300 pigeons have since disappeared.

Yesterday, Washington Square Park Blog pointed out that the allegedly abducted pigeons went missing just in time for a Pennsylvania Pigeon Shoot, which is being held at a Berks County, PA hunting club this weekend. And though that seems like a stretch to the callous observer of Columbidae, animal rights groups have complained over the years of people trapping pigeons and selling them to Pennsylvania hunting clubs. CURIOUS INDEED.

So are Washington Square Park's birds bullet bait? "NO pigeons have been abducted," the NYPD told us in an email. Well then.

So, maybe Larry got it wrong. But of course, even if you believe what the Man says, it won't sway those who hold their flying friends closest to their hearts. "My pet birds—my five flyers are gone," one pigeon enthusiast told Washington Square Park Blog. "There are 300ish birds in the park at any given time. I’ve counted about 30 are left." It's unclear where these birds have gone, if they have indeed disappeared, but perhaps they were smart enough to seek refuge from this heat and subsequent monsoon, and will return once the Halal carts aren't so overheated.

It should be noted that while these birds may not have been birdnapped, pigeon-trapping is not unheard of in this town, and it is legal to do so "in any humane manner" with a permit, "whenever such body or administration finds that pigeons within such municipality are or may become a menace to public health or a public nuisance." (It is illegal to trap a pigeon without a permit. Indeed, we've gotten a number of emails from tipsters reporting pigeon trapping and stumbled across a few videos of the act in question.

Still, it is not cool to take pigeons away from their park friends. "“Don’t steal our animals!" the Parks Department told Washington Square Park Blog in a statement. "Pigeons are core to the character of New York City, and it is illegal and dangerous to remove animals from NYC Parks."

Hopefully the allegedly missing pigeons will soon make their return to the humans that love them.