SCENT'S SUSPECT IN BIRD ABUSE
July 12, 2007 -- Is Ralph Lauren to blame for the disappearance of three piping plover families?
The federally protected birds - in danger of extinction because they insist on building their nests on busy beaches - went missing last month after cosmetics giant L'Oréal choppered 18 fashion editors to the Hamptons to launch its Ralph Lauren men's cologne and entertained them with rides along the surf in a fleet of Land Rovers.
While East Hampton canceled its July Fourth fireworks for the second year in a row so the plovers wouldn't be disturbed, L'Oréal put up a tent at the end of Napeague Lane in Amagansett. As the pampered fashionistas sipped champagne, devoured lobster and took joy rides in the four-wheelers, the gentle plovers were freaking out, according to Latisha Coy, a staffer with the town's Natural Resources Dept.
Coy told the East Hampton Star that, during the event, she witnessed one stressed-out plover hovering over Lauren's tent, which she claimed was improperly covering an area where the birds find nesting material. "There were eight Land Rovers east and west, shooting past . . . We were shocked and stepped in front of the vehicles to try to stop them." she said. "They were spitting up sand when they were turning around."
Coy, who claims the vehicles were speeding at more than 30 mph, said she spotted six pairs of plovers on the day of the event, but only three pairs the next day.
Francis Bock, clerk of the East Hampton Town Trustees, told the paper he's seeking subpoenas to quiz witnesses and wants the Fish & Wildlife Service to consider hitting L'Oréal with a fine of up to $200,000.
Serge Jureidini, president of L'Oréal USA's designer fragrance division, told us, "We abided by all regulations and permits. We absolutely did not harass the birds."
Fish & Wildlife rep Terri Edwards said her agency is "aware of the situation, but by policy we cannot confirm or deny the existence of a criminal investigation."
Not everybody loves the plovers. Advertising legend Jerry Della Femina said, "East Hampton is the only place in the country that can't celebrate the Fourth of July because of these dumb little birds. It would be just as easy to pick them up and move them to another part of the beach."