Hazing planned as crows return to downtown

Crows take flight after roosting in trees near downtown Watertown. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Those pesky crows have been back in full force in and around downtown after dark this week.

At dusk, hundreds of crows were swirling around the sky in the vicinity of the Jefferson County Historical Society museum and the former Masonic Temple on Washington Street, causing people to duck and run to their parked vehicles.

Timothy Patrick Sweeney, general manager for Tunes 92.5 & 104.5 FM, got out of his office in the Masonic Temple around 5:30 p.m., just in the nick of time to miss them on Tuesday.

But he already knew that the crows paid a visit by then.

“The thing with us is the smell of their droppings at the front entrance of our building,” he said.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith saw the first sign of crows when he observed their droppings in front of City Hall during a flag-raising ceremony for Columbus Day on Monday.

On Tuesday morning, he immediately called the Planning Department to let staffers know that they should contact the city’s crow hazing consultants, Loomacrees Wildlife Management, Warnerville, that the crows are back.

The city has scheduled the first night of hazing on Monday. Residents who observe them in the city should contact Loomacres about their location.

The city has arranged for Loomacres to start hazing efforts in October or as soon as crows are seen for the first time this season. In the past, the contract with Loomacres started a month later.

“We’re going to hit them hard, hit them early and hit them often,” Mayor Smith said.

The crows have gotten under the mayor’s craw in recent years, so he’s instructed Loomacres to use lethal means to get rid of them.

He also wants city Department of Public Works employees to train in how to haze the birds. City Manager Kenneth Mix said he’s still working on getting some employees lined up to get involved in the hazing efforts.

During last season, Loomacres shot and killed 15 crows during one night of hazing and then returned to kill seven more on another night. The idea is that the crows are scared away by seeing a few dead crows lying on the ground.

The strategy had mixed results last year. The crows seemed to have stuck around despite some being shot last winter.

There also were more complaints about crows leaving their droppings on sidewalks, downtown buildings and on a children’s playground at the Dulles State Office Building.

Other harassment methods used to disperse crows include pyrotechnics, lasers and other devices.

Last winter, small flocks initially gathered in trees near the Black River and away from downtown but gradually grew to a roost of between 5,000 and 9,000 crows, down from about 20,000 when Loomacres began hazing them several years ago. By the time hazing ended in March, fewer than 1,000 crows remained in the city, he said.

City officials are worried about the health risks of the crow droppings.

Loomacres is in the second year of a three-year, $16,238 contract to chase the crows out of downtown and neighborhoods.

See any crows?

To report a crow roost, visit Loomacres at www.airportwildlife.com/crows.php. This link is also available on the Planning Department’s Facebook page.

Residents can also call Loomacres’ toll-free number at 1-800-243-1462 and leave a voicemail detailing their report.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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