Crow Killer: Poison Cheese Curls

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Now it’s time to bring out the really big guns, officials and business owners in the city, East Petersburg Borough and Manheim and East Hempfield townships agree. Later this month or next, cheese curls laced with poison will likely be spread on farm fields and possibly business rooftops to kill thousands of crows that have again poured into the city and suburbs for winter roosts.

“I don’t know what else can do it,” Mayor Charlie Smithgall said this morning of the carefully orchestrated mass poisoning that is awaiting final approval from federal and state agencies. “We’ve tried shooing them, but all it’s done is move the problem from one person to the next. They do so much damage they have to be reduced somehow. We have to keep the city as disease-free as possible.

“We would like to get rid of all 10,000″ crows,” adds Jim Martin, Manheim Township’s manager and head of the crow task force formed several years ago by the affected municipalities.

Municipal leaders are taking the ultimate step in crow removal because they’re fed up with the unwavering return of swarms of crows despite several years of harassment techniques.

Their actions also are fueled by the West Nile virus scare. Crows are one of the biggest carriers of the sometimes-fatal virus. Crows killed by the virus have been found in the city and suburbs.

For years, each November or so huge flocks of migrating crows have swept into neighborhoods and parks and on to the rooftops of businesses, large and small. Damage has ranged from soiled sidewalks and cars to trees being damaged to roofs being pecked to the point they spring leaks. Noise cannons are currently booming at synchronized intervals from the tops of Park City, buildings in the Granite Run Corporate Center and other places.

One of the businesses victimized this year is Identicard Systems Inc. in Manheim Township. “I know it’s a bother to employees inside to hear them pecking through the roof,” says James R. Williams, public works superintendent for East Petersburg Borough.

Details of the crow eradication strategy are still being made final, but the plan calls for cheese curls or some other favorite morsel of crows to be laced with a toxic avicide.

The poison probably will be placed in farmers’ fields where the crows go to feed in mornings and evenings before flying to warmer roosts in trees in towns. Farmers are being contacted to get their permission to spread the poison. Poison will not be placed in populated areas, Martin says. “It will be a humane procedure,” he says. Still, Martin and other officials are bracing for cries of disapproval from some residents.

After the poison is ingested by the crows, police, public workers and volunteers from businesses in special protective gear will spread out to recover the dead crows. The crows will be taken to the county incinerator for disposal.

Martin promises that the public will be informed about the kill off before it begins. The campaign likely will take at least several days. The public will be asked to report any carcasses, says Martin. “Not to be gruesome, but some may be falling on the streets. It’s going to scare some people. We will need the public to help us.”

Martin did not yet have an estimate of how much it will cost the four municipalities and business owners to carry out the procedure. In previous years, the cost of dispersal was shared by the members of the task force.

The poisoning plan is being prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services office in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania Game Commission and state agencies also are involved. Similar poisonings have been carried out in Virginia and Maryland in recent years, Martin says.

Despite the dispersal efforts of the last several years, the crows have returned in similar if not greater numbers, says Martin. “From what I understand, the pyrotechnics will move them, but not get rid of them. And it seems like when they come back, it’s always more. At this point, I think it’s a health problem. We don’t want to wait until we have 150,000 crows and it’s worse.”

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