- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - Black crows seem addicted to visiting Terre Haute each fall, and they’re back again.

Their songs may not be musical, but the large birds have become an annual feature of late fall and winter in the city. Once again, large murders of crows have started landing on streets, treetops and in alleyways each evening.

“We’re ready for another year,” said Laurie Tharp, the Terre Haute code enforcement officer in charge of minimizing the impact of tens of thousands of crows on the city. On Wednesday morning, Tharp was with other city employees atop the former Icon Transportation building, now owned by Indiana State University, setting up a cannon that will make an enormous boom at irregular intervals each evening for the next several months. The noise, it is hoped, will discourage the birds from crossing the Wabash River into the city, she told the Tribune-Star (https://bit.ly/1FYSbzz ).

In years past, the abandoned industrial building just a few yards from the east bank of the river, with its sprawling black roof, has been a favorite stopping point for the thousands of crows flying into town from the west. This will be the first year the City of Terre Haute has been able to mount one of its cannons there, Tharp said.

The cannon does not shoot anything out of its barrel except noise - but the noise is considerable. The device, which looks like a tennis ball practice machine, uses propane gas to create the small explosion that produces the sound, Tharp said. One barbecue grill-sized propane tank should last several months, she said.

The cannon is also perfectly safe, creating no fire hazard, Tharp said, adding that ISU is being a great partner in the anti-crow effort by allowing access to the former industrial building.

If the Icon cannon, which is aimed directly out over the river, is the front line against the crows to stop their nightly aerial bombing of the city, volunteers known as the “crow patrol” make up the second line of defense.

City officials are asking anyone willing to volunteer to arrive in the City Hall courtroom at 5 p.m. Monday. There they will receive training in use of the cap guns, pyrotechnics and lights that are employed to move the crows from place to place. Every night except holidays until March, volunteers will seek out murders of crows in an effort to keep them out of populated areas.

The volunteers “follow the birds,” Tharp said. “We don’t want them to be comfortable here in our city.”

Crow sightings in Terre Haute started about a week or 10 days ago, Tharp said.

A group of volunteers connected with TREES Inc., a local environmental group, first organized several years ago to combat the crow invasions. Those early volunteers were concerned that residents would cut down trees to prevent large crow roosts from affecting their property. Downtown businesses, ISU and Union Hospital, whose buildings and sidewalks were becoming covered by crow droppings, also chipped in to help. More recently, the City of Terre Haute took over the management of the “crow patrol.”

In past crow counts, ISU biology professor Peter Scott has estimated the number of birds during the peak months of December and January at between 35,000 and 65,000 over the past decade and a half. The city’s efforts to deal with the crows have been reported by newspapers across the U.S., including The New York Times in 2011.

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Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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