Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crows on attack in Transcona

Crotchety corvids terrorize residents

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A pile of pint-sized tyrants has seized control of a Transcona neighbourhood and left residents keeping a wary eye on the sky.

That's where the crows attack from, you see.

That's right, crows. For weeks, the black birds have been terrorizing residents of Ralph Avenue, an otherwise idyllic residential street.

"It will just stalk you, following you from house to house, then swoop down and attack you," said Keyana, 15, herself a victim of the winged menaces. "If you run away, it will still keep coming at you. It freaks you out."

On Friday afternoon, the crows in question perched quietly in trees, lazily surveying their domain. But don't be fooled by appearances. For the last three weeks, the birds have been dive-bombing unsuspecting pedestrians, chasing cars, and forcing residents to keep a close eye on their small dogs (the crows sometimes devour rabbits) and huddle under umbrellas to go for a walk, even on sunny days.

Life seemed normal enough when the crow family -- which now comprises two adults and three juveniles -- set up a nest in a stately old tree in front of Bernice Sokol's house. Then two weeks ago, Sokol took her dog out for a walk -- and that's when the Hitchcockian horror show began.

"This big crow -- I mean really big -- starts going from tree to tree every time I'd move," Sokol said. "All of a sudden, he starts pulling my hair. I'd run into another yard, he'd follow me there and nip me right in the back of my neck. So you couldn't go outside. Absolutely not."

In between harassing residents, the conniving corvids developed a special distaste for the street's mail carrier, harrying him along his route. One day, the carrier and a colleague tried wielding a big branch to ward off attacks, but on Tuesday, Canada Post was forced to suspend delivery entirely.

Residents must now pick up their mail on Nairn Avenue.

"For us, it's a really unusual situation," Canada Post spokesman Eugene Knapik said, noting while birds occasionally pose safety problems for carriers, he's never heard of crows being to blame. "We want to re-establish service as fast as we possibly can, and we're monitoring the situation."

The odd thing, residents said, is the situation doesn't appear to be improving. Manitoba Conservation officials have said crows attack once their babies are large enough to leave the nest, and stop once the babies are able to fly, a period that can last between a day and a week.

But three weeks after the attacks started, they're still happening, and the baby crows have been seen joining in. That has left some residents wondering when the attacks will end -- and whether wildlife experts will help them take their street back.

"I'm a prisoner in my own home," said Bernice's husband, Gordon Sokol, who cannot outrun the birds since he's recovering from hip surgery. "We're the ones that are paying taxes, not the birds. So why do the birds get to take over the whole territory?"

 

-- With files from Julie Carl

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2012 A8

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