American crow

American crow

Is there ever just “caws” for murdering crows?

Sparked by a Front Porch Forum post, that was a local debate.

Entitled “Murder of Crows,” the post, attributed to Caitlin Waddick, of Shelburne, asks for suggestions to get rid of crows. It has since gotten lots of online opposition.

The May 24 post, in full, reads:

“The crows are a problem in several ways. 

How might we get rid of them? Does anyone have a success story? 

Do you have a CD (Crow-Be-Gone) that you might share? 

Is it legal to hunt them? How? 

I’ve been recommended to feed them popcorn, tied to fishing hooks and bricks. When the hook catches the bird, the bird is grounded by the brick, then you kill it with blunt force, such as with a shovel over the head. It sounds awful, But so do the other recommendations I have heard. I won’t use poison period because it pollutes and could hit the wrong target. 

What works? 

We and our songbirds seek peace.”

“Murder” is a collective noun for a group of crows, so some of the posts in opposition have speculated that the post might be tongue in cheek.

The post inspired a … lot? … well, what would be a good collective noun for a plethora of social media opposition posts? A logjam of posts?

Emails to Waddick were not returned. We wanted to ask the author of the original post about the “several ways” crows are a problem and for them to explain if the post was a joke that backfired.

We wanted to offer them the opportunity to … er … eat some crow.

A gaggle of locals have had a chance to announce their support for the birds in the online forum; we wanted to offer sort of a quid pro crow.

“I don’t know if it’s a joke that’s gone wrong or someone who’s been quarantined way too long,” Selectboard Chair Jerry Storey said.

Semiaquatic rodent subterfuge

The town of Shelburne has formed an Animal Coexistence Policy subcommittee of the town’s Natural Resources and Conservation Committee. Their goal? To develop a policy on human and animal interaction. The fact that it has started meeting around the time of this controversy is coincidental, said Storey.

The need for a policy grew out of the issue of beavers.

Around a year ago, there was a beaver dam on Webster Road, said Don Rendall, the subcommittee’s facilitator.

Town leaders decided it would be good idea to develop a policy guiding town employees, contractors and volunteers about how Shelburne wants to coexist with animals, Rendall said.

In the beaver situation, the town decided it would use a device, called a Beaver Deceiver, rather than kill them. The Beaver Deceiver fools the semiaquatic rodents into thinking the water has been stopped, while it actually is flowing through a hidden pipe.

Shelburne got the devices and the expertise of Skip Lisle in making the decision to use this strategy.

Unfortunately, the beavers were trapped before the selectboard could act, said Michael Ashooh, a member of the board.

The best of brand and band names

Lisle said he coined the name Beaver Deceiver in 1995 when he invented it. Now, the name has become ubiquitous, like calling tissues Kleenex.

He said he still needs to assure potential customers that he is not sending them to a porn site when he gives them his website address.

When this reporter, thinking he was clever, suggested that it might be the greatest name for a rock band ever, Lisle said, pointed out that there is a band called the Beaver Deceivers.

He said the only other solution is to kill the beavers - and keep on killing them because more beavers will show up and keep on building dams.

Having beavers is also a good thing, Lisle said. They are a keystone species that other species rely upon.

Keystone species are known as such because they function like the top stone in an arch, the stone the completes the structure. Like an arch, the ecology of an area falls apart when a keystone species is removed.

Rendall said other keystone species the Animal Coexistence Policy subcommittee will consider include hummingbirds and snowshoe rabbits. But not crows, which aren’t keystone species.

“The wetland environment that beavers create are very rare and some of the most important habitat,” Lisle said.

The dams still hold water with the beaver deceiver, but the flow is not completely stopped so the water does back up. This creates wetlands and ponds that “are some of the greatest cleaners of water,” he said.

Interrupting the flow allows sediments, heavy metals and other pollutants to settle and be cleaned.

Back to the murder … of crows

Chair of the Natural Resources and Conservation Committee Gail Albert said she was at a loss for words when she saw the post that appeared to condone killing crows so the sounds of songbirds will be easier to hear.

“I was sort of shocked that someone would think that was a good idea, particularly in this climate we’re in now,” Albert said. “We’re invaders of their property, they’re not invaders of ours.”

As she talked by phone, songbirds were clearly audible. She said she’d never had a problem with her songbirds being drowned out by crows’ caws.

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