City Councilman Joseph M. Butler says its time for the city again to use lethal means to try to eliminate the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 crows that have been roosting in the city this winter.
Mr. Butler said Friday that wildlife biologists from Loomacres Wildlife Management, Warnerville, should use high-powered rifles to shoot and kill the crows.
I think you have to use the most aggressive policy you can, he said after hearing that wildlife biologists will be back early this week to haze the crows.
The method was used last year when the city hired wildlife biologists from the U.S. Department of Agricultures Wildlife Services in Potsdam.
With the hopes dead crows would scare off others, USDA biologists shot and killed about 10 birds.
So far, Mr. Butler has been disappointed with the results that Loomacres has been getting from using such hazing methods as playing distress calls, firing low-yield pyrotechnics and using hand-held lasers.
Cody Baciuska, Loomacres lead wildlife biologist, said Friday that his team doesnt kill crows. It would be especially difficult in an urban setting like Watertown, he said, noting that air rifles dont make any noise, so they would not startle the crows and make them move.
Its just not efficient, he said.
Wildlife biologists from Loomacres have been in Watertown three different weeks this winter to try to drive off the crows. They will return Monday and Tuesday for a fourth phase of hazing and will be out from dusk to dawn. The methods may cause loud noises and be disruptive to city residents.
During a Jan. 16 to 18 visit, they concentrated mostly on the area south of the Black River, with special attention downtown and around the Jefferson County Historical Society museum on Washington Street.
But the museum, Mr. Butler said, has been hit hard since then, with crow feces ending up on the building and surrounding grounds.
Its ugly, he said, acknowledging that it may be difficult, in the end, to get rid of the crows.
Mr. Baciuska defended his teams hazing efforts, saying this seasons unusually warm weather has caused the crows to become confused about their roosting habits.
When the temperatures are higher, the crows have been staying out in the country. When it gets colder, they come into the city to roost, he said. In more typical winters, they find one place to stay at night.
In a memo to city officials, Mr. Baciuska wrote that his team was able to move enough of the crows out of the city and that the roost population had decreased in January. But flocks continued to hang around in many residential areas, he wrote.
The team harassed crows along Sherman, Washington, Gotham, Franklin, South Massey and State streets last month. The city has a contract with Loomacres through the end of the month.
Last fall, the Watertown City Council decided to hire Loomacres for $6,869 for the season, after receiving a good referral about the company from the Watertown International Airport, where it also hazes crows. So far, the city has paid $3,719 for the hazing program.
To help the hazing, residents are encouraged to continue to provide the location, estimated size, and dates and times of sightings of the crow flock.
Loomacres will continue to use this information as it works to move the crows out of the city.
The toll-free phone number to report crow activities within the city is 1 (800) 243-1462.
To report crow activities online, go to www.airportwildlife.com/crows.php.