The Canadian Peregrine Foundation


Article 6:
The Kidnapping of Hardy

by Kenn Chapman

It was, I believe, Hardy's second evening of flight. Around 9 pm, the light was fading quickly. We were keeping an eye on Hardy, as it was still quite a novelty to see at least one of the chicks flying at last (Laurel had timidly taken her first flight earlier that day, but wasn't really into the spirit of it yet).

Hardy was sitting on the east edge of the feeding perch at 33 Victoria St. She had been there for perhaps a couple of hours, and we were beginning to wonder if she would stay there for the night. Suddenly, a few feet away, a head appeared above the edge of the roof. Soon, a man had climbed right onto the roof, and began to fuss about with something. Then we saw him throw something in the direction of Hardy, while at the same time another person climbed onto the roof. This second man was carrying a large bag. Again there was some shuffling and movement at the east edge of the roof, and then both men stood up and walked toward the north-west corner of the roof, carrying the large bag that was obviously full of something. And that's when we noticed - Hardy was missing!

Our immediate reaction to this was that someone was kidnapping Hardy. We know there is a rich market for young falcons in the Arab countries. That was one of the reasons for keeping the news of the eggs and chicks away from the press for as long as possible.

What were we to do? Marion phoned 911, and asked that a patrol car meet Mark downstairs on the street as soon as possible. Mark then put in a call to Environment Canada's Peter Ewins at his home and also to MNR's Kathy Dodge on her cellular who, it turns out, was already on her way down from the 1 Toronto St. observation post where tomorrow's press conference was going to be held.

Mark then went down to the street and explained what seemed to be happening to the police. He could also hear a lot of shouting; there were still several volunteers at the 1 Toronto St. observation post shouting at these people to "leave our birds alone!"

The police called for additional units, and within minutes there were six cruisers on the streets covering every possible exit from the building. In addition, the street was crawling with people, including ourselves and some of the volunteers from 1 Toronto St. No peregrine napper would escape alive!

Meanwhile, Kathy had gone into the building and found the security guard already on the roof with these people, who now numbered six or seven. She went up there herself, along with a couple of police officers. She was there for at least an hour, while the rest of us waited down on the street. It was after 11 o'clock when she finally emerged from the building and gave us the whole story.

And that was when we realized all this time a truck was parked on the street directly in front of the entrance to the building at 33 Victoria St, with a driver waiting inside the cab. That truck was part of the story, and the driver - if we had only asked him - could have cleared up the whole matter in minutes.

Apparently, some film production company had made arrangements months before to film a commercial on the roof of this building, and tonight was the night. The first member of the production crew went up the ladder onto the roof, then threw a rope over the edge to help pull up some equipment. This is what we thought, in the dim light, was a net being thrown over Hardy. In fact, the crew members were completely surprised to learn that they were that close to a peregrine falcon on the roof, when they were told this by Kathy. In the poor light, they never noticed the bird.

The second man then arrived on the roof, just as his tool bag was being pulled up by the rope. The two of them immediately began to inspect the contents of the bag. This was the action we interpreted as putting the netted Hardy into the bag. Satisfied that everything was in order, the crew members then proceeded to the northwest corner of the roof where they began to set up their lighting equipment for the filming.

In the meantime, however, whatever happened to Hardy? Even in the dim lighting available, she clearly was no longer visible on the east edge of the roof - nor anywhere else for that matter. As we learned in the morning, when we took a much closer look at that side of the roof for the first time, we saw a recession in the roof, perhaps 3 feet by 6 feet and about 4 feet deep, which accommodated some of the air-conditioning equipment. Evidently Hardy, seeing a large, strange creature suddenly emerge onto the roof a few feet away from her, jumped down into this recession, where she remained until late the following morning when the parents coaxed her back up onto the roof level.

Kathy Dodge, while on the roof, gave the film crew a good lecture on the perils of disturbing Toronto's first-ever family of peregrine falcons, and advised them to proceed with caution - having failed in her attempt to dissuade them from filming the commercial altogether.

What was most interesting about this whole scenario, was the speed with which the authorities - this time, Metro Police - responded to the perceived threat to these falcons. In the end, of course, everything turned out just fine. The commercial was filmed, and Hardy was safe for another day. But just another day - for it was that very next day that she flew into the window.

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