News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 14, 2012

Crow Committee looking for volunteers

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Wabash Valley warriors hope for help as they prepare for another battle with the crows.

Terre Haute’s Crow Committee member Joy Sacopulos said the organization will host a call-out meeting beginning at 5:15 p.m. Monday in City Hall. Now in their third year, the volunteers plan to resume their non-violent tactics this month through spring.

“It usually lasts from mid-October to mid-March,” Sacopulos said, explaining the change in daylight and weather affects the birds’ patterns. “They can be funny and they can be aggravating. They’re already back and making messes everywhere.”

Estimates of the crow population are tough to make, but those who count consistently come up with between 60,000 and 100,000, she said. Highly intelligent, the crows are communal by nature and congregate in groups by the thousands. Each night, the giant swarm launches forth from the trees of the Wabash River, crossing into town for warm rooftops.

“We’ve never come across any city that thought they had that many crows,” Sacopulos said.

City ordinance prohibits killing the crows, but there’s nothing wrong with frightening them away, she said. The group has equipment which fires pellets at the birds, as well as “bangers” and “screamers” which make loud noises and flashes of light. Starting next week, volunteers will begin the nightly process just before sunset, remaining out on patrol for about an hour after dark.

College students and senior citizens often make great volunteers, and participants need to be at least 18, she said. Volunteers travel in teams, responding to calls informing them of locations where the crows have landed. Once there, they begin scaring the crows off that property, with hopes of herding them back across the river.

“It’s worthwhile, and we’d like to have at least six cars,” she said, explaining it helps to have one dedicated driver while passengers look for birds. Volunteers can pick which nights they’d like to participate throughout the season, and the group hopes to have about 20 each night.

Kym Pfrank, senior vice president of Union Hospital, said the group has been a big help in keeping the birds off their property in recent years.

“Union Hospital appreciates the work of the Crow Committee. The crow population around the Union Hospital campus this past few winters has almost dropped to zero. The Crow Committee’s efforts has helped make Union Hospital even better during the winter months,” he stated in an email.

Sacopulos said residents can call the Crow Hotline, 812-244-2709, and leave their name and address if crows are a problem there and volunteers can watch that area.

This year, Matt and Bridget Christie will help manage the operation, something they’ve done for years as part of Wildlife Management Services. Matt explained his father, Tim, started the business as a part-time hobby, but since then it’s grown considerably. From chasing geese off people’s land to rounding up coyotes and skunks, he said the activity is a fun way to be outdoors and work with wildlife.

“Really it’s more of a love of animals,” he said, describing their family as enjoying activities from fishing to canoeing.

And dealing with crow flocks numbering in the thousands is interesting, he said.

“It’s kind of exciting when you push around a herd of animals that big. It’s kind of neat,” he said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@