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AUBURN - And the latest crow count is … 63,800.

Three members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services Program and two Department of Environmental Conservation officials woke early Wednesday morning to count crows and document their desired locations.

The crow reconnaissance mission was done in preparation for the USDA crow dispersal program that will begin Monday. New York state USDA Wildlife Services director Richard Chipman said the estimate places Auburn's roost as the largest ever documented in the state.

"It's certainly an historic roost," he said. "We're never going to be exact with our estimates, but we can get pretty close."

Chipman, a wildlife biologist, said the USDA and DEC teams will spend the next two days in Albany, their home base, determining where the crows should be relocated.

"We want to move them to low-impact areas, where they won't negatively affect the quality of life for residents," he said.

On Monday afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., the $14,000 show will begin. Four blue trucks, each with two biologists dressed in orange jackets, will race around the city. The biologists will fill the air with pyrotechnics, lasers and recordings of distressed crow calls. The pyrotechnics will come from handheld pistols, shooting projectiles that whistle into the sky.

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The city's top trouble spots include the Fort Hill Cemetery, Memorial City Hall and Pomeroy Park. The dispersal program will run 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 5 to 7 a.m. Tuesday through Friday. Chipman said residents can become alarmed at the sounds.

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Chipman said his team has been successful in displacing crow roosts from other cities (Albany, Troy and Utica), but in some cases, it's taken years. So he believes Auburnians should be prepared to make dispersal programs an annual routine.

"I don't think our actions next week will completely sterilize Auburn of its crows," he said. "We look at the dispersal action like snow plowing. Snow is a natural phenomenon that you have to deal with. You get snow, so you have to plow. But I'm sure we'll eventually be able to relocate them."

Chipman is also sure his team will have a good time doing it.

"Yeah, we have a lot of fun," he said. "Getting out of the office and managing wildlife is what we signed up to do. And working with an historic roost of this size makes it even more enjoyable."

Staff writer Benning W. De La Mater can be reached at 253-5311 ext. 237 or ben.delamater@lee.net

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