Ray appears on Market Street in ‘bizarre’ but ‘sad’ incident

You not only have to worry about stepping on gum on Market Street – pedestrians now apparently have to watch out for fish that might be flopping on the sidewalks, too.

Animal Control and Care investigators are probing a series of strange and mysterious reports that at least one bat ray and a starfish were left for dead on the busy sidewalks of downtown San Francisco.

Last week, a bat ray was spotted flopping around on the sidewalk near Market and Fourth streets around 1 p.m., amid the frenzy of the bustling workday.

Julio Vasconcellos, a 27-year-old who lives in the South of Market neighborhood, said he was returning from his lunch break when he saw police and a crowd of onlookers surrounding the ray. No one knew how it got there, he said.

“It was bizarre,” Vasconcellos said. “But it was also sad, because the poor ray was basically thrown out to die.”

The ray likely was dropped there by a cruel prankster, according to Animal Control officers.

“We are in the process of investigating who is dumping them,” Lt. Le-Ellis Brown said.

Bat rays are native to the Bay and not considered endangered. Like stingrays, the bat ray has a venomous spine in its tail, but the fish is not usually aggressive with humans — unless provoked.

“No one wanted to touch it … the [police] officers were just standing around it, not really knowing what to do,” Vasconcellos said.

He said the police called Animal Control and were eventually instructed to remove the dying ray from the street by placing it in a black bag.

The ray sighting picked up online buzz this week when Vasconcellos, an employee with online blogging community Experience Project, posted the picture of the ray online. Not long after the post, several fellow bloggers commented that they had seen reports of other strange recent incidents in which fish were found lying on the streets — including another bat ray and a starfish.

Brown said Animal Control is currently discussing possible charges should the fish-droppers be found.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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