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Crows return to city earlier than usual

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They’re back.

And they are a little earlier than usual.

The estimated 20,000 to 30,000 crows that roost in the city of Watertown during the cold months have already returned. They normally start showing up about the first of November, when the nights begin to get cold.

During the past couple of weeks, crows have been seen hanging out in trees around the Dulles State Office Building and City Hall, behind the Jefferson County Historical Society museum and at other locations around Washington Street. And they’ve been leaving their calling cards all over sidewalks, vehicles and anything else in their paths.

“They’re defecating everywhere,” said Sterling Street resident Patrick S. Calhoun, whose jacket sleeve ended up with some droppings during a recent walk in the neighborhood.

During the past couple of weeks, it’s been a battle to keep his white sport utility vehicle, wood deck in front of his apartment and sidewalk clean from crow droppings, he said.

“Oh my God, it’s been terrible,” he said.

The Historical Society museum at 228 Washington St. also has been bombarded, said David T. Coleman, the museum’s caretaker. But he wondered whether anything can be done.

“They’re coming earlier and staying later,” he said, “It’s futile, absolutely futile.”

The city of Watertown has tried — with minimal success — to disrupt the crows in the past.

Two years ago, the city had wildlife biologists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in Potsdam try lethal means by shooting and killing about 10 crows, in hopes that the others would be scared off and not return.

When that did not turn out as they had hoped, council members went with the same company that the Watertown International Airport uses. Last winter, the city hired Loomacres Wildlife Management, Warnerville, for $6,869 to use such hazing methods as playing distress calls, firing low-yield pyrotechnics and using hand-held lasers. Earlier this week, Elliott B. Nelson, assistant to the city manager, began to solicit quotes from both the USDA and Loomacres to see how much they would take to handle the hazing this winter. The City Council is expected to discuss the issue at its Nov. 5 meeting.

Mr. Nelson cited last winter’s unusually warm weather as the reason why the hazing was not more successful. When the temperatures are higher, the crows stay 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.

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