Crow Away!

I want to start off upfront with a few things: First, I am not an expert on crow behavior, Second I am a fan of The Black Crowes, Counting Crows, and A Murder of Crows, and Third, I know crows can be a nuisance.

I’m not sure what programs exist in Mississippi to control these bird pests.  I know the Department of Wildlife Conservation in Oklahoma had a program for control, but I am not sure if Mississippi has anything similar. In Oklahoma crows are a significant pest of pecans.

I found a couple links with information on controlling them in Mississippi and it looks like they can be killed if needed to protect crops.

http://icwdm.org/handbook/birds/AmericanCrows.asp

“Crows are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal act resulting from a formal treaty signed by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, under this act, crows may be controlled without a federal permit when found “committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance.”

States may require permits to control crows and may regulate the method of take. Federal guidelines permit states to establish hunting seasons for crows. During these seasons, crows may be hunted according to the regulations established in each state. Regulations or interpretation of depredation rules may vary among states, and state or local laws may prohibit certain control techniques such as shooting or trapping. Check with local wildlife officials if there is any doubt regarding legality of control methods.”

https://www.animallaw.info/statute/ms-hunting-%C2%A7-49-1-39-killing-animals-or-birds-injurious-agriculture-exception-migratory

“Statute Text

  • 49-1-39. Killing animals or birds injurious to agriculture; exception as to migratory birds

The commission may issue permits to kill any species of animals or native, nonmigratory birds which may become injurious to agricultural or other interests in any particular community. All migratory birds, including hawks, owls, and eagles and their nests and eggs are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and federal regulations promulgated under this act. All species of blackbirds, cowbirds, starlings, crows, grackles, and English sparrows may be killed without a permit when such birds are committing or about to commit depredations on shade or ornamental trees or agricultural crops.”

Now, eliminating (killing) crows is not always necessary.  Often exclusion is the best option if possible.  Scare tactics or repellents can also work, but usually only for a limited time period as the crows become wise to it.

My suggestion, if elimination is necessary, would be to contact the US Fish and Wildlife folks in Jackson for more info: http://www.fws.gov/jacksonwildlife/.  Also available is The Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts at Mississippi State University which can be found at this website: http://www.humanwildlifeconflicts.msstate.edu/#&panel1-1

Netting Grapevines Against Birds

Last year I had problems with birds destroying some grapes before I had the chance to harvest them (full disclosure: I had several conferences last year that I attended while it was close to harvest time.  I rolled the dice that the fruit would still be there when I got back — no such luck). This year I am taking no chances!  Last week the bird netting went up on two of the four rows in the vineyard and this week the other two will be covered as well.  Since the vineyard is so small, it was relatively easy to put the netting over the rows and secure it.  Below are a few photos (taken by Richelle Stafne) of the process.

Throwing the netting over the row.  It helps to be tall.

Throwing the netting over the row. It helps to be tall.

Pulling the netting over the vines to make sure it covers the canopy.

Pulling the netting over the vines to make sure it covers the canopy.

Securing the netting by using zip ties. Other materials can be used such as string, twine, or bread ties. The netting was tied to the irrigation wire with the zip ties.

Securing the netting by using zip ties. Other materials can be used such as string, twine, or bread ties. The netting was tied to the irrigation wire with the zip ties.

The job is finished and we admire our efforts while sweating in 90+F heat and humidity.

The job is finished and we admire our efforts while sweating in 90+F heat and humidity.

The netting will remain on until harvest.  Once all fruit is harvested it will be removed and stored for next year.  Netting is an added expense to the vineyard and it makes management more difficult, but it is a necessity to protect the fruit from birds. There are different kinds of netting, some will last longer than others (and hence are more expensive), so it depends on an individual managers needs which kind to purchase.  Tractor implements are available to help with this process in large-scale operations.