City plans crow-hazing efforts for this winter

Crows circle overhead as dusk settles in downtown Watertown last fall. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Although it’s a few months away before the crows return to roost this winter, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and the City Council are already coming up with ways to get rid of them.

It was more difficult to haze the pesky crow population last winter when the roost stuck around in and around downtown despite hazing by the city’s consultant.

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

“Hit them early and hit them hard,” Mayor Smith said, suggesting that wildlife biologists from Loomacres Wildlife Management start hazing earlier in the year before the crows settle down to roost.

The mayor also thinks it’s time for city staff to help in the hazing efforts. They should be trained to play distress calls, fire pyrotechnics and use hand-held lasers to disrupt the birds.

However, City Manager Kenneth A. Mix stressed that employees could not be used for lethal means because Loomacres biologists are sharp shooters with high-powered air rifles.

Cody Baciuska, whose company handles crow hazing for the city, said city employees can receive training and licensing through the state Department of Environment Conservation.

On Monday night, City Council met with Mr. Baciuska to plan for a strategy to move the crows out of the city and to talk about last season’s hazing.

During the 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.

But the crows seemed to have ignored the killings and returned a few days later to the trees where they were roosting. Mayor Smith said deadly force worked, however.

After the mayor suggested killing some crows, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, came out to oppose shooting crows to scare off the remainder of the roost.

People were particularly irritated this past winter by the sheer amount of droppings that the crows left on buildings, sidewalks and cars. It was difficult to maneuver around crow feces that covered sidewalks leading to the Flower Memorial Library, Jefferson County Historical Museum and City Hall, and on the children’s playground outside the state office building, the mayor said.

“It was devastating,” he said.

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.

During the season, crows mainly congregated off Newell, Lillian, Washington, and East Main streets, Waterman Drive, Keyes Avenue, the church by Parker Street and near the city snow dumping site off Mill Street.

But they were less scared of nonlethal hazing, so deadly force was used to try to move the flocks, Mr. Baciuska said. By the time hazing ended in March, fewer than 1,000 crows remained in the city, he said.

City planner Geoffrey T. Urda suggested that the city improve its reporting methods of resident complaints, so it’s better known where the popular roosting locations exist.

Every year, thousands of crows show up in late October and stick around until sometime in March because they like the warmer temperatures in the city and the ambient light that protects them from their predators. After the season, they stay in fields in the country.

Loomacres just completed the first year of a three-year, $16,238 contract to chase the crows out of downtown and neighborhoods.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(5) comments

Empathy

Sometimes we have to rethink what we are doing and start over again. I googled How to attract crows and what crows need. Like us they need food, water, and social support. Any trash with bits of food on the downtown city streets attracts crows. Bird feeders and outside animal feed dishes attract crows. This includes the huge bird bath in front of the library. Dead crows on the ground attract crows to come to their funerals which is a known behavior of crows. Young crows without parents, dead, are cared for by other crows. Relatives come in to help and grieve. Perhaps more thought and less violence might be in order at this time.

rdsouth

I predict that nothing will be effective. The surrounding area is very hospitable for crows most of the year, then in the winter the city is a bit warmer so they concentrate here. Nothing is going to change that.

Hoosier

BIRD X Drones specializes in autonomous inexpensive bird chasing drones, fully automatic, turn one on, it goes hunting for you and harrasses the crows like crazy. Again, light a few up and get a splendid show! On the internet for sale now!

Hoosier

I'll advertise on Drone sites, and bring friends, 10 have already agreed to go, if there are decent hotels!

Hoosier

I still see this as a tourist and entertainment opportunity! Parrot drones (appropriately named) are low cost wi fi connected A.I. drones (available at best buy and on line), so they lock in on a satellite for stability, my grandmother can fly mine. You can fly by watching the drone, or put on a set of goggles and "fly" em as if you are piloting them. People and drone enthusiasts would line up for the opportunity to show and film their piloting skills at chasing crows. If you let go of the controls, the drone stops and stays in place, hit the emergency button, and it safely lands where it took off. Light em up at night for real fun! What a bunch of fun! OK this idea Mr. smith, and I'm in chasing crows for the city for free, and not a single crow dies!

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