World War C: The Crows at Penn State
During the first weeks of December, the Office of the Physical Plant wages war on some campus residents who have overstayed their welcome: the crows.
Though seemingly harmless, these birds flock to Penn State, roost in the trees east of Old Main near South Halls, and line the sidewalks with their excrement. OPP has made it a mission each year to relocate the crows because of the unsanitary conditions that comes with the population.
The office sent out what OPP Coordinator Paul Ruskin calls a “Laser Recon team” this week to begin the relocation process and assess the latest crow behaviors. So, why are they called a “Laser” Recon team? Because the team carries with them green laser pointers to scare the birds away. According to Ruskin, approximately 500 crows have taken up residence on campus so far, but the number is on the rise. Some years, OPP has seen as many 3,000 crows roosting at Penn State. Ironically, the reason for these crows taking shelter during the winter is the warmth provided by urban areas like University Park and State College compared to that of the wilderness.
“Crows love the safe, warm, and welcoming ambiance of University Park,” Ruskin said. “To a crow’s mind our campus looks a lot like Daytona Beach.”
OPP has used several tactics in recent years in order to drive away these squatters. Some of the tactics include fogging (these birds hate the smell of bubblegum), pyrotechnics (which OPP calls “Bangers and Screamers”), and even hanging crow effigies in trees to scare them away. But the latest technology, green laser pointers, could very well be the future of the crow relocation program. Ruskin assures these news lasers are harmless and are merely used to “razzle dazzle” the crows.
“OPP use of lasers enables us to quietly relocate the crows with very little noise,” Ruskin said. “If the crows stop reacting to the lasers, OPP will shift tactics and bring out the pyrotechnics. The crows may be smart, but OPP is smarter!”
Historically, the crows that have migrated from the Northeastern states and Canada remain in the area until March when the temperatures begin to rise, but only time will tell if OPP’s latest strategy will effectively scare away these pesky birds.