An unidentified couple was recently caught on camera snatching a bird from a local park in Philadelphia.
Footage of the peculiar “birdnapping” incident in Washington Square park was posted to Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday by @lethalshooter, a popular account run by professional NBA shooting coach Chris Matthews.
In the clip, a man and a woman can be seen sitting on a bench while surrounded by sparrows. The man looked on as the woman carefully grabs one of the birds and immediately stuffs it inside a plastic bag. The bird can be seen still flapping its wings.
Matthews wrote in the Instagram video’s caption, which has since been deleted, that he recorded almost 10 minutes of the activity, indicating that the woman grabbed more than a couple of the small birds.
He also mentioned that his girlfriend, identified as Krístíana, notified a park ranger about the incident in the hopes that “this could never happen again at this park.”
Park officials stated that this was the first time they were made aware of such an incident happening at Washington Square, which is under the Independence National Historical Park, Billy Penn reports.
The ranger investigated the complaint and approached the couple, who were found feeding the sparrows surrounding them, according to National Park Service Public Affairs Officer Gina Gilliam.
Upon questioning, one of them said that they were feeding the birds, while the other stated that they caught a bird earlier but released it.
Gilliam said that the ranger also saw an empty plastic bag nearby but “identified no location where they could have birds hidden.”
Before leaving the couple to respond to a medical emergency, the ranger advised them that catching birds is illegal.
Gilliam further stated that trapping and harassing wildlife in the park is against federal regulations, noting that such violations can be punished by a fine or imprisonment for up to six months.
The National Park Service, which learned about the incident via the social media post later in the day, stated that it is taking action to ensure future violations of this type do not occur.
“This is the first time that I ever heard of or saw this report [in Philadelphia County],” Game Warden Jerrold W. Czech, Jr. was quoted as saying.
According to Czech, the pair could still be charged with a summary violation under the PA Game and Wildlife Code Title 34. The penalty would depend on how many and what kinds of birds they captured or killed.
Netizens expressed varied reactions toward the videos after they were widely shared on Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit.