Canyon County

What caused 28 crows to drop dead at Nampa City Hall?

These crows were among the large flocks hanging out near the Caldwell Wal-Mart in late January, 2014. Businesses complained, and Caldwell police tried numerous efforts to get the crows to roost elsewhere. They later moved east to Nampa.
These crows were among the large flocks hanging out near the Caldwell Wal-Mart in late January, 2014. Businesses complained, and Caldwell police tried numerous efforts to get the crows to roost elsewhere. They later moved east to Nampa.

When crow corpses dotted trees and parking areas at a Caldwell shopping center two years ago, it was because frustrated businesses complained about the massive flocks and police used shotguns to try to scare them away.

But it’s unclear what caused 28 crows to perish this week near Nampa City Hall — an area popular with the black birds since they moved on from crow-weary Caldwell. The dead birds were reported Thursday afternoon and picked up by a city animal control officer, Nampa spokeswoman Vickie Holbrook said.

“They were not shot,” Holbrook said. “We don’t know the cause of death.”

Neither, yet, do officials at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, where Nampa animal control delivered the bodies.

“We sent them to the health lab. There’s no report yet,” regional conservationist Charlie Justus said Friday morning, noting that there was no obvious indication of what killed the birds.

“It’d be interesting to see if it’s just the hard winter or if something else is happening there,” Justus said.

He noted that crows typically spend their days foraging in fields for waste grain, then return to Nampa to roost in trees. These days, no grain is accessible. “They’re dying of something; it could just be with all this snow they’re not getting enough to eat.”

These crows were found near City Hall and the adjacent Nampa Civic Center, located at 411 and 311 3rd Street South. A week or so ago, Justus said, he saw three or four dead crows near Burger King a couple of blocks east on 2nd Street South.

Both areas have been frequent winter haunts for crows since Caldwell’s yearslong effort to push them out of town took root. For a decade or more, Caldwell tried numerous approaches, gradually pushing the crows eastward from downtown Caldwell to a commercial strip of Cleveland Boulevard, to the Wal-Mart shopping plaza near the city’s eastern edge. Their next hop east was to Nampa.

Fish and Game, which heard Caldwell-area complaints for more than a decade, has not heard comparable reports about the crows in Nampa, Justus said.

“We have noticed more crows in the area, but they have not created a problem for us,” Nampa’s Holbrook said, “and frankly, since the major snows, we haven’t had that many around here.”

A little more than a month ago, Holbrook said, City Hall received a few complaints and she sent out this information to those who complained:

“I understand your frustration with the crows. As you know, they are a migratory bird and there’s a great deal of information on the internet about the crows in urban settings.

“And you are correct, Caldwell took steps — at taxpayer expense — to help reduce the number of crows in certain areas. It may have helped, but we (the city of Nampa) haven’t seen any long-term proof that it made a difference. One would also have to ask whether the taxpayers of Nampa want precious tax dollars spent on fighting the crows when they leave on their own accord in the spring.”

The city also provided concerned residents with a link to information about crows and some humane solutions residents can take if they are a problem on their properties.

Justus and a representative of the Fish and Game lab in Eagle said tissue samples from the crows will likely be sent out for tests. Definitive answers about what killed them could take a while.

Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447

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