Crows crash Cal U.

  • By Andy McNeil January 8, 2013

In Roman mythology, the god Apollo turned crows from white to black as punishment for lying. Nowadays, the animals appear to be exacting their revenge against a different deity.

California University of Pennsylvania, home of the Vulcans, announced Friday that the return of wintry weather had brought large flocks of crows back to campus. Having dealt with these pesky critters for the past several years, the university took little time to begin taking measures to send the crows packing.

“We know not to wait until they amass themselves in large numbers,” said Cal U. spokeswoman Christine Kindl.

Pest removal technicians are once again battling the birds with laser lights, noisemakers and a natural grape-extract mist in an effort to shoo the crows from campus and “alleviate the unpleasant and unsanitary conditions they create,” according to a Cal U. news release. Such tactics are not harmful to people or animals and are typically deployed for a couple hours beginning at dusk.

“We’re grateful that it’s grape and not something that smells much worse,” said Kindl, who described the fog extract’s sweet scent as being more like a lollypop than a vineyard.

Last school year, Cal U. evicted crows numbering in the thousands from the campus in an effort to prevent health risks that can be caused by their foul-smelling droppings. However, unlike the year prior when the birds relocated to a wooded area along the Mon-Fayette Expressway, they invaded California Borough.

Dave Miller, wetlands exhibit coordinator at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, said crows form massive gatherings in the winter months because it aids them in finding food and staying safe. He said the campus likely provides these adaptable and persistent birds with warm buildings to roost on and reliable food sources.

“Once established I think the deterrents might only inconvenience the crows, due to their tenacity,” he said. “When spring arrives, this large group will divide into smaller family groups, disperse and nest until late fall.”

As one Cal U. freshman learned last year, it takes more than a homemade Halloween scarecrow to frighten off these bright birds. According to a 2011 report by Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, their intelligence and wariness is what make crows a challenge to manage.

As for the current crow population, Kindl said it hasn’t been as large as in previous years.

“It was definitely smaller groups than we’ve seen in the past and they were more scattered about campus,” she said.

In the meantime, ornithophobic students can rest easy since spring semester classes aren’t scheduled to begin for a few more weeks.

Andy McNeil has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2011 as a general assignment reporter. He covers courts and education, and also serves as a photographer and videographer. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University, The Behrend College, with a degree in English; Duquense University with a post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate, and Point Park University with a graduate degree in journalism and mass communication.


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