Minimizing the Murders (of Crows)

December 20, 2018 07:50 PM

(ABC6 News) -- If you’ve spent time in Rochester since the weather’s turned cold, chances are you’ve noticed the crows.

If you haven’t seen them, you’ve probably stepped in what they leave behind on the sidewalks and streets.


What you probably don’t know is, there’s a handful of Parks & Recreation employees who spend their nights keeping the crows out of the downtown area.

“We use lasers and starter pistols and we try to keep them congregated in one area if we can,” said Barrie Wutschke, a part-time employee for the department who’s in his first year of doing crow abatement.

Most nights, the crows start their evening at Oakwood Cemetery.

“You’ll see mostly in the trees, pine trees, they live because that’s good cover for them,” Wutschke said.

The murder of crows might seem like a lot, but Chris Decker, who’s been with Parks & Rec for 19 years, said there used to be more.

“The change that we’ve experienced in the last couple years is that the numbers are definitely dwindling,” he said.

But there’s still a lot of crows.

“One time it was later at night after Thursdays on First and Third, it was almost like an Alfred Hitchcock film outside the library," said Bill Fay, who was meeting a friend for lunch downtown. "You look up and you couldn’t see the branches there were so many crows."

Parks & Rec has ramped up its abatement program over the last several years.

“We’ve got airsoft pistols, we’ve got starter pistols with blanks in them, we’ve tried everything, from pots and pans to a certain kind of shovel, to noisemakers and distress calls and air horns and you name it. If someone has had a good day with getting rid of them that way, we’ve tried it,” said Michael Schaber, Parks Operations Manager.

The birds are smart.

“They have learned what areas that we patrol and what areas that we try and keep them out of,” Wutschke said.

The parks department says Mayo Clinic has installed some of its own deterrents, which have probably helped keep the crows at bay.

Some nights, it seems like a never-ending task.

“We’ll chase them to one area, and then... chase them out of one area and they’ll just go to another,” Wutschke said.

But over the last few years, Decker said he’s seen their hard work pay off.

“We feel as if what we’re doing is working,” he said.


Alice Keefe

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