Kristen Richers was not expecting an otherwise ordinary journey home, or her coat, to be ruined by crows one night.
As she strolled across the street from Thomas Building, she said it was too dark to notice what she later estimated to be about 50 crows in a tree above her.
“I was walking home, and they all decided just to go to the bathroom at once,” Richers (junior- kinesiology) said. “It was honestly like rain. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
The Office of Physical Plant is aware of the crows on campus, and officials have tried several techniques over the past four years to try to remove the crows. This season, however, OPP has decided to try a new approach, according to OPP Spokesman Paul Ruskin.
“OPP has adopted laser weapons,” Ruskin said. “It’s kind of an arms race between OPP and the crows, and we have gone to laser weapons.”
The lasers are essentially high-powered green laser pointers, which do not harm the crows, but scare them away temporarily, Ruskin said.
This highly visible green light is perceived by the crow mind as danger, according to a press release.
“OPP use of anti-crow lasers is a pilot test intended to determine laser effectiveness,” Ruskin said in a separate email. “The laser testing period is now over, and OPP is evaluating effectiveness to determine possible future usage when the crows return next year.”
Director of Buildings and Grounds for OPP Phillip Melnick said the lasers do seem to be effective in deterring the crows.
Ruskin said the crows are mainly a sanitation problem, which ruins the “pristine campus that we like to offer to our students and visitors.”
In the past, OPP has tried several techniques as potential methods of “crow harassment,” Ruskin said.
OPP initially tried a device that emitted bubble-gum scented fog, the smell of which deters crows, but the wind blew the fog away before it could be effective, Ruskin said.
Crow effigies, or imitation crows, were also hung upside-down from trees. Ruskin said this technique was initially effective because crows are social animals and seeing another dead crow makes the crows upset. But the crows have a fast learning curve and soon realized the effigies were fake.
Currently, OPP uses two types of flare gun ammunition as crow deterrents: bangers, which startle the crows into the air, and screamers, which push the crows elsewhere, Ruskin said.
“One of the advantages of the lasers over our current stockpile of weaponry is the bangers make a lot of noise… but the lasers are silent,” Ruskin said, adding that this allows the lasers to be used without disturbing students.
In order to find the crows so that effective measures can be taken, Melnick said OPP sends teams to watch the crows’ movement.
“We have people that are out on campus about the time that crows are coming back from feeding for the day… and they observe the crows and try to estimate how many crows they’re seeing in the roost, and where they’re roosting,” Melnick said.
Later, Melnick said OPP teams will visit these locations with crow harassment techniques to scare the crows away.
Melnick said the university offers a comfortable environment for the crows, providing a food supply in a nearby area, warmth from campus buildings and protection from predators.
There should soon be fewer crows on campus regardless of OPP’s efforts because they typically start migrating north after spring break, Melnick said.
Until the crows are gone, Ruskin said students should not be alarmed if they see OPP employees wearing green vests and shooting off flares.
“When you hear loud noises, don’t be worried,” Ruskin said. “The crow wars are just continuing.”