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Councilman wants bounty on crows

February 26, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown city workers are expanding their noise assault against the crows at City Park, but one City Councilman wants to use live ammunition in the struggle.

Since Wednesday night, city workers have been firing an air cannon in the park to try to harass the crows into moving.

The air cannon will be used today, Monday and possibly Tuesday, Public Works Department Manager Doug Stull said. The cannon will be fired at 7 a.m. each morning and again each night, he said.

The cannon will not be used Sunday.

Bird droppings cover walkways and benches in the park, and roosting crows have broken tree limbs two- and three-inches thick, he said.

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If successful, the air cannon, which sounds like an automobile backfiring, will push the crows to wooded areas near the intersection of Burhans and Wesel boulevards, Stull said.

But Councilman J. Wallace McClure says that won't solve the problem.

"We have to address the cause, not the symptom," he said.

McClure said the city should look into offering hunters a $1 per-bird bounty. But since firing a gun is illegal inside city limits, the birds would have to be killed outside Hagerstown, he said.

"The problem is that there are too many crows and we need to do something to decrease the number of crows," McClure said. "Anyone who says this is cruel must not be living where these birds have overrun."

McClure's recommendation received mixed reviews from his fellow council members.

Councilman William M. Breichner said he was under the impression that shooting the crows is against the law, but if it's legal then he would be in favor of McClure's plan.

Crows are considered migratory birds and are protected by a federal law, but that law allows limited hunting, said Tom Mathews, manager of the Game Management Program for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

In Maryland, people are allowed to hunt crows Wednesdays through Saturdays from Aug. 15 to March 16, Mathews said.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said he didn't think offering a bounty for crows would have a significant impact on the crow population.

"I don't think you could get enough hunters," Boyer said. "There's hundreds-of-thousands of those things."

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein declined to comment on the recommendation.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner opposed the idea.

The crows are an almost annual winter nuisance for many Hagerstown residents.

In warmer weather the birds spread out over Tri-State area roosting in smaller numbers, said City Building Inspector Mike Heyser.

Once it gets cold, usually by the end of October, the crows begin roosting in large flocks.

In previous years the crows have chosen to roost in the city's south end, downtown and the park.

Last year the crows generally stayed in the heavily wooded area near the Hagerstown Roundhouse and the intersection of Burhans and Wesel boulevards, which is where city officials hope the birds will return to.

Past tactics for moving the birds and their mess away from the places people frequent have included playing recordings of crows in distress and spraying trees with a grape extract.

McClure is not the first to suggest killing the birds as a way to control their numbers, Heyser said.

City officials have discussed shooting the crows, trying to poison them, shaking the crow eggs and placing large bird traps on top of tall buildings, Heyser said.

"It was brought up but it was never seriously considered," Heyser said about a suggestion to shoot the birds.

One reason was because city officials were concerned that the city could be held responsible for people being injured or property being damaged by hunters going after the crows, he said.

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