The City Council has decided that lethal means again will be part of the arsenal to rid the city of its pesky crow population this season.
The council on Monday night approved a $4,693 contract with Loomacres Wildlife Management, Warnerville, to conduct a hazing program to chase the 20,000 to 30,000 crows from the city this winter.
As a part of those efforts, wildlife biologists will use high-powered air rifles to shoot some of the crows. City officials hope that by killing a few crows, other birds will get scared off and leave the city.
I think we have to be as aggressive as we can, said Councilman Joseph M. Butler, who introduced an amendment Monday night to the contract for wildlife biologists to use pellet guns to ward off the birds.
The tactic also was used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in Potsdam two years ago, when about 10 crows were shot and killed.
The biologists from Loomacres also will use such hazing methods as playing distress calls, firing low-yield pyrotechnics and using hand-held lasers to scare away the flocks.
Mr. Butler, who has supported using lethal means in the past, said he has noticed the crows have returned this year earlier than usual, adding there are already crow droppings on the sidewalks and walkways at the Jefferson County Historical Society, 228 Washington St.
You cant walk on our campus without stepping on crunching fecal matter and smelling the odor, said Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns, a Historical Society board member.
During the past few weeks, crows also have been seen hanging out in trees around the Dulles State Office Building and City Hall and at other locations and neighborhoods around Washington Street.
Elliott B. Nelson, assistant to the city manager, said the owners of Loomacres have agreed to shoot some of the birds to scare the others off.
Its another arrow in their quiver, he said. Its another tool they can use.
Plans call for starting the hazing as soon as possible because it will be easier then to disrupt the population, he said.
Mr. Nelson cited last winters 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. In more typical winters, they find one place to stay at night.
According to the contract, Loomacres the same company that the Watertown International Airport uses will provide 150 hours of crow dispersing by hazing the crows. If biologists must work more than 150 hours, Loomacres will be paid a rate of $35 per hour, with a maximum of 90 additional hours for a total of $7,843.
Last year, Loomacres was paid $3,719 to battle the crows, with limited success.