17 Dec 2009

I think there are too many Hooded Crows in Ireland.

On my parents sheep farm in Donegal
one of the things that drives me nuts is the amount of Hooded Crows. One can walk into some of the fields and just watch the crows land on the sheep and pull out the wool. They is also a danger when a sheep gets on to its back that they are susceptible to attack. The Crows go for the eyes first and once this has happened generally the animal has to be destroyed.

There are a few farmers who put out dead rabbits or a dead sheep with Alpha Chloralose sprinkled over them. Alpha chloralose is used as a poison.It is an anaesthetic compound which disables the bird and they ultimately die of hypothermia. In America in the past it was used to capture Sandhill Cranes for live study. If a bird or animal has eaten it and is found soon enough there are antidotes if taken to a vet soon enough.

Unfortunately in Ireland it is still legal to use alpha chloralose for vermin control and it is this continued use that is putting the reintroduction schemes of Golden Eagles and White Tailed Eagles at risk. There are constant reports of Buzzards, Kites and White Tailed Eagles being poisoned in Ireland and I would hazard a guess that these are a by product of farmers trying to kill Magpies and Hooded crows. I doubt that they are specifically going after the Birds of Prey.

So what are the alternative solutions? Shooting or Trapping. Now if you have tried to get near a Magpie or Hooded Crow with a gun they are remarkably wary birds and one can barely get within shooting distance. They also become even more wary if you on that rare occasion succeed in shooting one.

So that leaves trapping. There is the Larsen Trap which can be quite effective. It uses a captive bird in one half of the trap. This attracts other Magpies or Crows and they then get themselves into the other half of the trap from where they can then be despatched.

The route I think that I will take is the Crow Trap like this one below its called a Ladder trap.

This type has been found to be pretty successful on some of the moors in Scotland and also here in Northern Ireland. I might see if I can get the man that built two for the RSPB here in Northern Ireland to build me one. One was used at Portmore Lough to protect the breeding Lapwing against the Hooded crows and the other was used in the Belfast Harbour Conservation area . The trap in the RSPB Belfast Harbour Conservation Area accidentally caught a Buzzard and a worker on the adjacent industrial site saw it on is cctv and reported it to the RSPB at Belvoir. RSPB Reserves Manager Gregory Woulahan had to go and release it!! He then had the trap destroyed. What a waste of £500 pounds or 15 memberships. At least the beauty of this trap type is that if they do capture something other than crows they can be released whereas the poison kills anything that should eat it.

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