The DEC is investigating two separate sites outside Hornell, while efforts continue in city to move birds.
While city police are using scare tactics to shoo crows from roosts in Hornell, someone else may have taken up murder to rid the area of the black birds.
Region 8 state Department of Environmental Conservation personnel are investigating what happened to a number of crows found dead at two sites on Upper Glen Avenue. Wildlife Technician Marty DeLong bagged six each at the two locations, checking on a report he received Wednesday afternoon. The bagged birds have been sent to the DEC pathology laboratory in Albany for a determination on the cause of death.
“From what Marty says, it looks like they might have been poisoned or died of natural causes, and they died in the roost area,” said DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Tom Flaitz, adding he was unsure of the exact number found at the sites. “It could have been treated bird seed or fertilizer, the birds might have eaten something that was poisonous.”
“He said he didn't think any of them were shot, because he couldn't determine any blood,” he added.
Flaitz said the lab report would likely take a week or two to come back, but should provide information on how they died. Steuben County Public Health & Nursing Services also were notified by DeLong, but West Nile Virus is not believed to be a factor.
“It's probably not a cause right now because it's so cold,” Flaitz said.
If the birds were poisoned, the person who may have done so could be facing punishment by the DEC. While it's legal to hunt crows - though not inside city limits - Flaitz said poisoning is not.
“If someone's done something, the best thing would be to let us know now,” he said. “If poison comes back as the cause, we'll investigate it.
“Once a cause is determined, we'll see if we can find that type of poison,” Flaitz added. “If it's a pesticide, we'll see who's purchased some, there's usually a trail there.”
Hornell has had issues with crows crowding the city streets, gathering in trees and leaving their mark. Mayor Shawn Hogan said city police are using a variety of methods to scare the birds off, in hopes of eradicating the large groups - murders - from Hornell. He said there have been calls about crows from residents living on Olive and Adsit places, and John, Center and Maple streets, with the latest area to have problems being Genesee Street.
“We've been using high-tech bottle rockets to continue to harass them,” Hogan said. “I think we've finally driven them up outside the city.
“Cortland had police opening up on them with buckshot on Sundays, but we have been more humane,” he added. “They cordoned off the area and did some selective shooting, but we're not going to advocate that sort of thing.”
Hogan said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department wanted $10,000 to come into the city to disperse the birds with fireworks and the screeching sounds of the Great Horned Owl.
“I said we'd try it ourselves first,” he said, “and I think we've been somewhat successful."