Crow problem can't be ignored

Remember when Rochester's "bird problem" concerned the abundance of giant Canada geese — and their droppings — in Silver Lake Park? They rendered large parts of the park largely unusable, which was a problem, but it wasn't as if anyone HAD to go to there. Rochester has no shortage of public green space.

Today, most of the geese are gone. A shoreline restoration project, along with less hot water coming out of the Silver Lake Power Plant, has made the park far less hospitable for geese, which is great news for people who like to walk, bike, picnic and exercise their dogs in the park.

Unfortunately, Rochester now has another bird problem that's bad and getting worse, and it's a safe bet that the crows that now occupy downtown will be tougher to deal with than their web-footed friends. Extreme measures will likely be needed. 

America has been waging an on-and-off war against crows for the past century. Dynamite was once the weapon of choice to wipe out thousands of birds in large roosts. During the Depression, the federal government gave free shotgun ammunition to farmers whose field were being raided by crows.

Yet they still thrive, largely because crows are smart. Really, really smart. According to the University of Minnesota agricultural extension office, crows can count and solve complex puzzles. They post sentinels while feeding and have great memories. There is a crow-hunting season, and if you ask those who pursue this sport, they'll tell you that crows, once they've seen or experienced danger in an area, become incredibly wary.


Hopefully, that wariness will prompt the birds to move on when Mayo Clinic takes serious steps to stop the soiling of its sidewalks and buildings. We can't envision a day when sharpshooters will take dead aim at the culprits downtown, but every option short of that should be on the table. We'd love to see the crows forced out of Rochester, but even if the trained "attack hawks" and falcons could convince the crows to simply disperse across the city, that would be a big improvement.

Mayo Clinic and the city can't afford to ignore this problem. Their droppings aren't just messy: They can also can carry diseases that can affect bird species or even people. And, once crows get in the habit of roosting in a certain area, their numbers tend to increase each year, with some roosts topping one million birds.

That's a prospect that would have made even Alfred Hitchcock shudder.

So bring on the hawks, falcons, firecrackers, nets, traps and every other weapon in the crow-fighting arsenal. Take no prisoners.

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