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Biologists return to Watertown to study crow population

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Wildlife biologists returned to Watertown on Wednesday night to assess what else can be done to rid the city of its pesky crow problem.

They were not conducting hazing this time, concentrating only on survey work. “It’s just looking around to see if anything needs to be done,” said Cody L. Baciuska, a biologist with Loomacres Wildlife Management, the Warnerville company hired by the city to address the crow problem.

Last week, city Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns called for wildlife biologists to use high-powered air rifles to kill a few, in hopes of scaring off the rest of the flock of 20,000 to 25,000 crows.

But Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso isn’t sold on the idea, wanting more information about its effectiveness. “I’m sort of gun-shy, so to speak,” she said. “Someone has to prove to me it works. I know we’re desperate, but I’m worried it would send the wrong message.”

Ms. Burns and Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. have advocated using lethal means, contending that the methods of crow hazing used this season and last have not worked. They said the crows have been chased from downtown into several neighborhoods in the city.

Ms. Burns has urged council members to assess the situation after this crow season ends and discuss what else can be done about the roost, which arrives in late fall and usually sticks around until late February before returning to rural fields.

Mr. Baciuska said Wednesday that there are no plans, at this time, to use air rifles. That topic is something that the biologists want to discuss directly with City Council before starting.

To harass the crows, biologists have used such methods as pyrotechnics, lasers and other devices, which produce lights and noises similar to sirens and fireworks.

Council members have expressed concerns about health and safety issues from crows making their home here during the cold weather. Crows leave droppings on sidewalks, vehicles and buildings and seemingly all over some city neighborhoods.

In the meantime, biologists would like to get more information about roosting patterns of the crows.

Residents are encouraged to provide the location, estimated size and dates and times of flock sightings. Biologists rely on this information to identify nuisance crow flocks.

The toll-free phone number to report crow activities within the city of Watertown is 1-800-243-1462. To report them online, go to http://www.airportwildlife.com/crows.php.

For further information or questions, contact City Manager Sharon A. Addison’s office at 785-7730.

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