Downtown Springfield businesses battling crows again

“It’s not only a nuisance, but it’s a health problem and a property problem,” said Roger Sherrock, chief executive officer of the Clark County Heritage Center and one of the leaders in the fight against the crows.

The Heritage Center, Courtyard Marriott, Clark County Public Library and Clark State Community College, among others, have used a plethora of tools, ranging from laser pointers to boom machines, to force the birds out of the area. The sheer amount of birds and the mess they leave behind creates a big problem, he said.

“We’re not talking even 1,000 birds, we’re talking 50,000 to 60,000 birds that come downtown … it’s right out of a Hitchcock movie,” Sherrock said.

City employees and the local businesses decided to ramp up their fight with the crows this year and are in the midst of an extensive two-week plan to convince the birds to choose a roosting place away the downtown area.

Businesses are paying hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars to remove the droppings the birds leave every morning. There are also other damages, like the stones crows swallow to help digest their food and are left behind to clog up gutters on buildings, Sherrock said.

The Downtown Business Association met with a wildlife biologist in October of 2012 to learn how to get rid of the pests, said Center City Association Director Bill Harless. After that meeting, at the suggestion of the biologist, several downtown businesses installed sound machines to deter the birds from landing on buildings downtown.

The digital repellents send out sounds of predators and crows in distress to ward off the birds in a six-acre radius. But the birds have outsmarted that move, Sherrock said.

“The crows adapted quickly and realized that’s just a fake,” he said.

So the businesses decided they needed to step up their efforts and band together even more, calling on volunteers from within to brandish lasers to point at the buildings from dusk until early night, Harless said.

The businesses are working with the city, which has battled to fend of the crows for more than a decade, said Chris Moore, director of the city’s service department.

The city is staffing one or two service workers per night, three hours per night, over the next two weeks during the push. The city will spend roughly $1,000 on the extra man hours, Moore said, and spends $400 annually on ammunition for the flare guns they use.

“But one group or one individual cannot battle all these crows,” he added.

Some city employees have noticed the efforts have paid off over the years.

“When we first started it was really bad, and I’ve noticed a decline to a degree,” said Charles Foster, a city service employee. “But it doesn’t seem like we’re going to get rid of them at this point.”

If the two-week plan to move the crows does not work, Sherrock said they will continue their fight into the winter.

“We’ll keep going as long as it takes,” he said.

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