WATERTOWN — Maybe it’s time to declare victory in the city’s war against the crows.
Cody Baciuska, a consultant who oversees the city’s crow hazing efforts for the past eight years, says that the crow population that roosts in the city every winter is decreasing.
“The numbers are getting smaller and smaller,” he said.
Mr. Baciuska, vice president of Loomacres Wildlife Management, said as many as 30,000 crows roosted in trees in and around downtown when the Cobleskill company took over the hazing efforts in 2011.
This past winter, between 10,000 and 12,000 crows made downtown their home.
Fewer crows have stayed around downtown since the company’s wildlife biologists started killing the birds with air rifles, he said. They didn’t use lethal means this past winter, but seven were killed the previous year.
Crows are probably remembering what happened to them from previous kills, so they stay away, he explained.
In hopes of spreading them out in smaller flocks, other hazing efforts are used, such as harassment methods like pyrotechnics, lasers and other devices. Several of these methods produce loud noises and flashing lights that frighten the birds and chase them away.
The crows like to go into urban areas, like Watertown, because temperatures are higher than in the country, where they feed and stay during the day in the winter and before moving into the city at night.
“The situation is not really unique,” he said, adding that Utica, Syracuse, Albany and Rochester also have problems with crows.
This past winter, crews generally hung around the Black River, Veterans Riverwalk Park and around Washington Street, where hazing efforts were used to try to decrease the flock and move them out of the city.
They seemed to have liked flat roofs, like the Jefferson County Historical Society, the former Masonic Temple and City Hall, where they can watch what’s going on, Mr. Baciuska said.
Councilwoman Sara V. Compo wanted to know whether Loomacres or the city received any resident complaints about loud noises bothering them. Mr. Baciuska said it happened only once when the loud noises annoyed a family’s pet parrot, so biologists just avoided that neighborhood.
City officials have expressed concerns about the health hazards of crow droppings. Residents also have complained about crow excrement ending up on cars, driveways and sidewalks.
The consultant has handled the city’s crow-hazing efforts for several years. The company finished the third year of a three-year, $15,700 contract with the city.
Geoffrey T. Urda, a city planner involved in the crow hazing efforts, said the City Council will be asked this fall about approving a new contract with Loomacres.