News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 29, 2012

Answering the caw-se

Crow Patrol seeing success moving birds out of town

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Midway through their current season, folks working to keep large black birds out of the city’s populated areas have something to crow about.

Members of Terre Haute’s Crow Committee said Friday they have turned a corner in their efforts to “move” birds from downtown, Union Hospital, Indiana State University and other heavily populated areas.

Committee members said they have reached a point where the birds are responding to pyrotechnics, lasers and other disturbances by flying farther north or south, not simply scattering temporarily only to return later to the same spot.

“They now move away from you,” said Matt Christie of Wildlife Management Services, who organizes each night’s Crow Patrol with his wife, Bridget. “That’s a great feeling.”

Crows arrive in Terre Haute by the tens of thousands each winter and remain until March. For several years, the birds would roost around the Vigo County Public Library, Clabber Girl, the UAP Clinic or elsewhere downtown, leaving big messes on sidewalks, parked cars and roads.

Now, however, the birds have mostly been moved away from the heart of the city and are finding peaceful sanctuaries in less populated areas, such as a wooded space near U.S. 41 and Fort Harrison Road, Christie said. However, there remain some problem areas, especially on the city’s north side.

“They are starting to creep into Spencer Park,” an urban park on Eighth Avenue near 14th Street, Christie said at a committee meeting Friday afternoon at the Purdue Extension offices in Terre Haute.

Volunteers use bright lasers and pyrotechnics to disturb the birds, encouraging them to move, but it can be a losing battle without enough people involved, he added.

In other words, despite their progress, the patrol still needs a lot of help. A core group of loyal volunteers shows up nightly, but more people are needed to keep the effort strong, committee members said.

“We definitely need volunteers,” said Joy Sacopulos, a founder of the committee, now in its third season. And individuals can also play a part simply by making loud noises with pots and pans or other means when they find crows on their property.

The committee will even offer advice and a few pyrotechnics as a “starter supply” for businesses or fraternal organizations seeking help, committee members said.

Two or three years ago, before the committee took off, parts of downtown Terre Haute were often blanketed with crow droppings. At the start of the 2011/2012 winter, the subject caught national attention when The New York Times published a front-page article about the city’s “crow problem.”

But now, things are much improved now, committee members said.

“The process has been effective,” said Jim Luzar of the Vigo County Purdue Extension office and chairman of the Crow Committee. And, committee members like to note, no crows have been injured or killed by the effort.

To volunteer for the Crow Patrol, show up in the City Hall parking lot near the crow patrol vehicles at 5 p.m. any day of the week. Or call the Crow Hotline at 812-244-2709. Volunteers must be at least age 18.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.