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Crows keep car washes busy

November 22, 1996

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

Despite biting cold weather, Mark Smith decided he had to wash his car for the second time this week.

After parking it at the motel where he is staying on Dual Highway, the 38-year-old Michigan man's car was covered with crow droppings. Again.

"You've got to watch where you park in this town," Smith said with a laugh. "Is it always like this?"

Smith has learned a Hagerstown lesson. The white stuff falling from the skies in November is not snow.

"You have to wash the stuff off your car or it'll eat your paint off," said Smith, as he washed his car at the Dual Highway Car Wash.

The crows have become such a part of fall in Hagerstown that a local radio station, WQCM, is holding an "Invasion of the Crows Weekend," said disc jockey Mike Conrad.

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Listeners can call in when they hear a crow "Caw" followed by a splat noise and win prizes, such as gift certificates to a car wash, or music compact discs by artists such as Sheryl Crow, Black Crowes, or Counting Crows, or the soundtrack to the movie, "The Crow."

Bruce Johnson, manager of the 3 Minute Car Wash on Jonathan Street, said the car wash is seeing 25 to 30 cars a day covered with crow droppings.

Some of the cars that come in are completely covered, Johnson said.

"People are frustrated," Johnson said.

He also said some people are angry because they thought the city would take care of the crow problem.

Besides unsightly, the crow droppings have acid in it that can eat through the paint and that can leave a faded spot on the vehicle, Johnson said.

City officials have a crow hotline that residents call to report crow sightings or volunteer to help shoo the big, black birds away from populated areas.

The hotline has been busy with reports of crows along Summit Avenue, South Potomac Street and East Antietam Street around the downtown area, said Mike Heyser, the city's building inspector.

The brunt of the birds are hanging out in a wooded area between the Venice Inn and Sheetz on Dual Highway. Those birds are inundating the parking lot at the nearby Fennel Building on East Antietam Street with markings of their presence, he said.

"It looks like we're going to have to do something this year" and soon, Heyser said.

Volunteers may hit the streets next week to shoo the birds away using cassettes tapes of noisy sounds as well as clanging pots and pans or smacking pieces of wood together, he said. Anything that makes a loud, sharp noise should work.

Anyone interested in volunteering should call Heyser during business hours at 739-8577, ext. 119, or call the crow hotline after hours at ext. 529 or KAW. Volunteers will receive T-shirts from the city that feature a picture of a crow on the move.

Staff Writer Julie E. Greene contributed to this article.

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