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City to ask Congress for crow solution

August 17, 2000

City to ask Congress for crow solution



By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer


Hagerstown City officials will ask Congress to help them stem a long-running problem - crows.

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Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Thursday he will write a letter to the area's U.S. senators and representatives asking for their help to solve a nationwide problem.

Bruchey said he also will raise the issue with Washington County's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly this fall when the delegation meets with city officials to discuss legislative needs.

Every fall, crows nest in and around downtown Hagerstown and some other city neighborhoods, where it is warmer and they can find food.

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The result has been a bombardment of purple stains that often leave residents and businesses frustrated as they repeatedly have to wash their cars and sidewalks.

On Tuesday the mayor and council heard about different methods, many of which they had already tried, to rid the city of what Councilman J. Wallace McClure referred to as a public health problem.

In an effort to tackle the problem before it gets out of hand this year the city invited Les Terry, state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, to speak to them on the issue during Tuesday's work session.

Terry confirmed that crows are a nationwide problem and said they are protected by an international treaty.

Around 1913 the United States signed a treaty with Mexico and Canada, which has since been expanded to Russia and Japan, to protect the general family of crows, Terry said.

One of the countries had a problem with a specific crow species, and rather than focus the protection narrowly, the treaty addressed the entire crow family, Terry said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner joked that crows were an attempt by the former Soviet Union to conquer the United States without warfare.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said if it were rats rather than crows causing the problem, the city wouldn't face as many obstacles.

There is a hunting season for crows and people are allowed under state law to shoot crows if they are about to cause damage or are a nuisance, Terry said. However, city law forbids discharging firearms within the city limits.

Terry said even if the city hired sharpshooters or off-duty police to shoot the crows, it wouldn't solve the long-term problem because there are so many of them.

In the past the city has tried a propane cannon, grape extract smoke, tree thinning and pyrotechnics such as bangers and zingers to disperse the birds, but that only prompted them to move to different neighborhoods.

City Engineer Bruce Johnston said he explored using the chemical Avitrol by Home Paramount to scare away the birds. The idea would be for a few birds to digest the chemical, which would send them into a fit, scaring away the other crows, Johnston said.

Johnston dismissed that tactic because he feared the birds might cause damage in such a state.

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