Murder Most Foul
Every year for the past decade or so Terre Haute (That’s French for, “I need to wash the car again”) has been the winter camping ground for upwards of 10,000 Crows. When the weather begins to get a bit nippy and the leaves start turning lovely shades of red and gold this city is invaded by a sky-blackening horde of these bad-attitude flying versions of Chase Utley (for non-baseball fans: look him up, then give in to the urge to wash your hands).
In the world of Avian Taxonomy a collection of these birds is called a “Murder of Crows.” How flippin’ appropriate. Fish are in Schools, Cows are in herds, but Crows are part of a Murder. A few years ago I saw a Crow live up to this classification as I watched it pin a pigeon to the ground and peck it to death – all of this in the middle of a busy sidewalk in downtown San Francisco.
When the Crows return to Terre Haute the business at the carwashes picks up because the Crows make statements of their opinion all over the place. And when you have 10,000 of them – well, you can just imagine.
The City of Terre Haute makes efforts to get the Crows to leave and go somewhere, anywhere, else. Each evening during “Crow Season” in the downtown area you will hear “The Crow Patrol” firing off extremely loud noisemakers that sound like cannon fire in an attempt to scare, annoy, disrupt, piss off, and/or make the Crows unhappy enough to move. They have been doing this for years now and the general opinion is that all it does is scare, annoy, disrupt, piss off, and make unhappy any humans who are in the area. As far as the Crows are concerned all of this noise serves to tell them that it’s dinner time – “Let’s go down by the river and scare the ducks.”
I have only seen one thing work to get the crows to scram, albeit temporarily. When my wife, the lovely and vocally gifted, Dawn, comes out of the Church and sees more Crows than ever appeared in Hitchcock’s film, “The Birds,” perched in the trees and atop the Church itself, she can cut loose with a vocalization that is so loud and in perfect Crow-ese that the sky darkens as they take flight by the thousands. She must be saying something like, “Run for your lives, they’ve called in a thermonuclear airstrike!”
Whatever she is telling them it is, indeed, impressive. Of course it also means than we will need to hose down the Church steps again, but you have to do something.
We recently watched a National Geographic film about Crows. It seems that Crows are quite intelligent. They not only use tools, but make them as well. The only other species that are known to do that are Humans and Chimpanzees. Thank God that Crows don’t have opposable thumbs or things could get really ugly.
There have been a number of proposals about how to deal with the Crows. Some are good, most are not. I don’t think that the Crows are lovable enough to support a “Festival of the Crows.” One look at the mess in the parking lot after an autumn day of downing some Barbecued Crow on a Stick and Deep Fried Chocolate Covered Crow would take the glow off of the idea.
I don’t see any positive spin for 10,000 aggressive, incontinent, and just plain nasty Crows. You’d have better luck backing a Broadway Musical version of Schindler’s List.
I think there is only one way to have the Crows get the message that Terre Haute is not the winter playground that they had hoped for. What we need to do is issue rifles to every man, woman, and child and offer prizes for the best shots. “Bag A Crow – Win A Prize!” Free dinners at Chick-fil-A or KFC might be good incentives.
Yes, I’m aware that there might be some downside aspects to this plan, but I think it’s worth a shot – er – try.
You can’t please everybody.