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Crow hazing touted as a success in Watertown

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WATERTOWN — A wildlife biologist is crowing that his company chased away all but a couple of hundred of the nearly 20,000 crows that made the city of Watertown their winter home this season. In an April 16 memo to the city, Cody Baciuska called this season’s crow hazing “successful” after conducting seven hazing sessions from December to the end of February.

As the season began, 15,000 to 20,000 crows roosted in trees overnight. Hazing reduced that number to about 1,500, Mr. Baciuska wrote.

It was the third season that Loomacres Wildlife Management handled crow hazing. The Warnerville, company has a three-year, $14,506 city contract to address the problem.

But some members of the Watertown City Council are dissatisfied with the company’s work.

Council members Joseph M. Butler Jr. and Roxanne M. Burns want the company to use lethal means. Wildlife biologists disagree.

Instead, they have used such methods as pyrotechnics, lasers and other devices to produce lights and noises similar to fireworks and sirens.

“They’re not going to say they failed,” Ms. Burns said of Loomacres. She added that the company was paid to do a job and simply wants to be rehired.

In February, Ms. Burns urged council members to assess the situation after the crow season ended. She favors training city employees to conduct hazing efforts to save money.

In his memo, Mr. Baciuska wrote that wildlife biologists first observed a main flock perched in many trees near the corner of Factory and Huntington streets. They initially divided the birds into groups of 50 to 200.

On later visits, the flock dwindled to between 5,000 and 10,000 crows. But the Loomacres staff continued to break up and scatter the roost until biologists observed about 1,500 crows on the final hazing in late February, Mr. Baciuska wrote.

Mr. Butler would not comment on the memo, as he had yet to read it. But he still supports lethal means to get rid of the roost, which arrives in late fall and usually sticks around until late February before returning to rural fields.

That plan would use an air rifle to kill a handful of crows. Other birds would see them drop to the ground and presumably be scared off.

On Friday, Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso said she still opposes that tactic, saying it would send the wrong message. “I don’t want kids to see that,” she said.

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.

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