Proposal to kill crows in Watertown ruffles feathers of animal rights group

Updated: Feb. 13, 2020 at 5:27 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith's answer to the city's crow problem is to kill off some of the birds and, because of that, he's taking heat from an animal rights group.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, sent a letter to the city this week in response to Mayor Smith's comments, urging the city to not to kill any crows. But Smith says the birds are destroying downtown's history and something needs to change.

"Non-lethal methods are not working; we need to start using lethal methods," he said.

PETA says killing crows is cruel and is urging the city to forgo any lethal methods such as shooting the birds because they are inhumane and don't work.

"The population is directly related by the amount of food so if the food sources can't be addressed or aren't addressed, then all you have done is removed individuals and created more food for the individuals who are left and that prompts accelerated breeding and then you end up with more animals," said Kristin Rickman, emergency response division manager, PETA.

Smith says the last thing he wants is more crows and more droppings, arguing that the mess is destroying downtown history.

"The dropping of the feces just where people go is really a public health risk; it's disgusting and something has got to be done," he said.

Tom Catalano from the Jefferson County Historical Society agrees.

"When you have an entity like the museum and you're open to the public and they have to walk through the disaster that they leave on the front sidewalk and on the steps because you can't clean it up quick enough, that's sad," he said.

Outside city hall it's clear the crows have been there recently. If you just look to your feet, you can see bird droppings scattered all over the sidewalk.

That sidewalk leads up to Flower Memorial Library.

"It's going to be horrendous to clean it after the crows are gone because it's not easy to clean and there's so much of it and it's going to be a nightmare," said

Yvonne Reff, library director.

PETA has offered to buy crow effigies, or dead crow decoys, to support the city's non-lethal hazing of the crows.

"If PETA wants to come to town and they want to give some fake dead birds, we'd be more than happy to take them," said Smith.

In response to PETA’s suggestions, Smith has also asked PETA to pay for the damages done to city property from the crows.

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