The family of a child who made headlines for befriending crows is now being sued for $200,000 by neighbors angry about the flocks of black-feathered birds in their neighborhood.
Gabi Mann, the 8-year-old daughter of Lisa and Gary, unintentionally began her relationship with local crows in the Portage Bay neighborhood of Seattle in 2011 at the age of 4, according to a BBC profile. Because she easily dropped food at that age, the highly intelligent birds soon learned that she was a source for quick meals.
By 2013, Gabi and her mother began leaving out fresh water, peanuts and dog kibble on a daily basis for the crows, who would reportedly assemble together on top of telephone lines and caw out loudly for the food.
Gabi developed such a relationship with the birds that they soon began dropping beads, baubles and earrings for her. She values these small treasures so much that she stores them in a dedicated box where they sit organized in single plastic bags labeled with descriptions of the objects and the date and time they were collected.
While the Manns find their crows endearing, however, their Portage Bay neighbors disagree. They likened the 30 to 100 crows that would hover around the neighborhood during feeding time to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 horror film “The Birds.”
At one point, around 50 of the Manns’ neighbors signed a petition asking the city to intervene in getting the family to stop feeding the birds, according to a Seattle Times chronicle of the neighborhood feud.
Next-door neighbor Christine Yokan, a pension fund investment manager, told the Times about some of the problems caused by the crows:
“Heavy bird feces on and around neighbors’ houses was causing damage to buildings and vehicle paint, and occasionally, disgustingly, landing on neighbors themselves. Properties were being littered with food scraps; peanuts and shells were being strewn on the lawns of families with allergic children …”
“[…] Many neighbors including myself definitely have shouted at the birds to go away many times, including when the Mann family was in the yard feeding. Some neighbors, including me, would bang pans to drive them away.”
In an email to the Times, Gabi’s mother, Lisa Mann said that the family’s neighbors directed “vitriol and shouting” at both her and “my two young children whose love for these birds is how all our passion for all birds came to be.”
In other emails sent to the Times, Lisa Mann complained that neighbor Matt Ashbach, an ear, nose and throat doctor, had hung up a dead crow “in effigy off of his third-floor balcony of his million-dollar mansion” and that another neighbor had been caught by hidden cameras placing a dead rat on their property for a public health official to later find.
On Monday, the months of feuding came to a head when Yokan and Ashbach filed a $200,000 civil suit against the Manns that alleges:
“These animals and their noise, filth and fecal matter are injurious to health or indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to essentially interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of the life and property.”
Homes in the Portage Bay neighborhood have an average value of $2 million, according to real estate websites from the area found by Newsweek. The trial has been set for a year from now on Aug. 6, 2016.
Take note, wealthy homeowners: don’t feed the birds.