PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A murder of crows and a flock of onlookers gathered near the downtown Portland transit mall to learn more about a program that’s gotten the city a lot of attention.

From now through Spring 2020, the Downtown Portland Clean and Safe District brings in the hawk patrol from Integrated Avian Solutions a few nights a week to scare crows within a highly-trafficked 72-block area.

“We’re not killing them, we’re not abusing them, we’re just hazing them gently enough to push them into other areas,” said falconer Kort Clayton. “We use the same falconry techniques that have been used for millenia.”

Kort Clayton with Integrated Avian Solutions holds one of the hawks being used to scare crows in downtown Portland, October 15, 2019 (KOIN)

This type of urban falconry is used to tackle the city’s crow poop problem.

“Ideally people would simply coexist wherever possible,” said Audobon Portland Conservation Director Bob Sallinger. “But the truth is these large roosts do produce a tremendous amount of poop.”

In years past, Portland used the Poopmaster 6000, which was not exactly effective for all city surfaces. There have also been cases of crows being poisoned.

“The goal was never to drive down the number of crows or to drive them out of the city or to harm them,” Sallinger said. “It was simply to move them around to alleviate pressure on certain areas.”

He added they want “to find safe, humane ecologically responsible solutions” wherever possible.

Audobon Portland said that’s where the falconry has been a real win. But not everyone sees it that way.

Urban naturalist Gary Granger said, “We’re prioritizing human convenience over the survival of a species that’s really critical to this habitat.”

Granger worries we don’t really know if hazing crows is harmful over the long term. But he wishes the city would wait until he and other do more research.

“Try and understand why they’re picking the places they’re picking if we can, without the hazing taking place immediately, and to see if we can come up with a strategy that would not disadvantage the crows, and lessen the conflicts that some people have with the poop,” he said.

Granger also said wildlife isn’t always tidy, neat and clean. “It’s messy and the messiness is part of the beauty.”

Audobon Portland said since the hawk patrol started they’ve gotten significantly fewer complaints about crow droppings. Even if the crows are going outside the downtown area, it’s spread out enough to be less of a problem.

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