All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Crows: Nuisance or Neighbors

Dear Marie,
The crow population in our city seems to get bigger and bigger every year. On trash day, our neighborhood looks like a scene from “The Birds”. The crows are completely fearless and get into the trash cans even when people are close by. They make a mess like you wouldn't believe.

Aside from that, they roost in trees and make noise from sun up to sun set. My wife and I have called animal control but they won’t do anything about it. I’d like to use a BB gun on them but I’m not sure if this would be legal. Should I check with the police department about this or can I take care of these nuisance birds once and for all.
Fed Up in Garden Grove

Dear Fed Up,
I understand your frustration, yet it is truly unfortunate that the solution you and most people come up with for animal related inconvenience is extermination of the offending creatures. I am not surprised however, since this seems to be the lesson taught by parents to children generation after generation.

For example, when my youngest daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher approached me to recount a classroom incident. A spider was crawling on the carpet where the children sit for story time and other class activities. One of the boys, who is normally very quiet, shouted to my daughter to watch out for the spider.
Immediately, another student tried to squash the spider while my daughter pleaded not to kill it “because spiders are our friends.”

Fortunately, the teacher took the opportunity to talk to the class about how spiders are beneficial. Still, by the initial reaction of most of the students to the spider, it was apparent that killing a living creature just because it was in the wrong place at the wrong time was, in their eyes, an appropriate measure.

The earth is home to so many amazing life forms of which we humans are just one species. From our perspective, we are the rulers of the planet. Whether this viewpoint comes from a religious or scientific origin, great responsibility is attached. It is negligent and foolish to deal with animal related problems by destroying the animals we perceive as nuisances. Nevertheless, history has shown that time after time, such rash judgments are approved and the lessons from their hideous consequences are rarely learned.

In the case you have outlined, you have described a problem that was created through human error. The crow population in urban communities has grown so substantially because there is enough food available to sustain an unnatural number of crows. Simply, this food comes from trash that is easily accessible and pet food left outside in bowls. Businesses as well as private residences contribute to the abundance of food availability.

In order to reduce the crow population in a humane and natural fashion, the food must be eliminated – not the crows. Even if you were allowed to shoot the crows (and you are not), the situation you describe wouldn't go away. In fact, you would create a more severe problem and here is why. In response to the sudden decrease in population, crows from adjacent areas - where less food is available - will relocate to your neighborhood. Simultaneously, the preexisting colony will begin reproducing at a faster rate with more eggs being laid and hatched. For a short time, until nature equalizes everything, you will have more crows in your neighborhood.

The solution therefore, is not the termination of crows but the removal of unnatural food supplies. Rather than endangering the safety of your neighbors (and their windows), I would suggest having a meeting at your home or creating flyers for distribution that outline tips for reducing available food sources. Be sure to include the ideas of feeding pets indoors only, covering fruit trees with agricultural mesh or nylon netting, and securing trashcan lids. You’ll find through group participation, that most of the crows will move away. As I have always advocated, if you work with nature, you will have a strong ally.

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