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Council approves shooting crows

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City Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. said he believes it’s finally time to do something else to get rid of the tens of thousands of crows that invade the city of Watertown every winter — shoot and kill some of the pesky birds.

Mr. Butler proposed once again Monday night that a contract with Loomacres Wildlife Management, Warnerville, should include using lethal means as part of the city’s crow hazing program. He suggested amending the contract with Loomacres to use high-powered pellet guns to kill a few crows to scare away the remainder of the flock of 30,000.

By a 3-2 vote, the Watertown City Council authorized Loomacres wildlife biologists to use the lethal strategy. How soon that might happen has not been established yet.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso voted against killing crows, although the mayor voted later for the three-year, $14,506 contract with Loomacres. Ms. Macaluso remained opposed to the contract.

Before the vote, Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns told council members about the damage that crow droppings cause to the Jefferson County Historical Society museum every year. She said it’s difficult to clean up the mess at the Washington Street landmark.

“It seems like there are more crows than ever,” she said, adding that Auburn used lethal means to rid that city of the 60,000 crows that roost there.

She urged council members to take a walk through the museum grounds “to get a first-hand account of the damage.”

Last week, a museum maintenance worker spent several hours hosing down the sidewalks covered with crow droppings. The roof of the carriage house and the museum also are coated with the white or purplish substance.

But the mayor said it’s a never-ending battle. He mentioned, partly in jest, that residents can do their part by banging pots and pans together to scare away the birds. Ms. Macaluso, in voting against killing them, expressed concern about sending a message to residents that it is OK to shoot crows.

Last season, Loomacres biologists used special remote-controlled aircraft, played distress calls, fired low-yield pyrotechnics and used hand-held lasers to attack the crows. They held three hazing sessions in December, starting at dusk and lasting throughout the night. They ended up not using the pellet guns last year, although Mr. Butler suggested doing so.

Before biologists begin the hazing this season, they will survey the population and study its roosting patterns. They also intend to add crow effigies and paintball markers to their arsenal this year.

As many as 30,000 crows make their roost in the city when the weather gets cold, and they typically stay until late February. Some people are worried about the health problems the crow droppings might cause.

Ms. Burns agreed, saying she has noticed a strong odor left by the droppings.

The mess can be found on sidewalks, vehicles, buildings and seemingly all over some city neighborhoods.

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