Grapes of Wrath, Cortland's newest weapon to combat crows

A bench covered in crow droppings in Cortland

Cortland County tries grape seed oil to battle a gathering of crows.

If you were to walk around the Cortland County Courthouse in the City of Cortland, the fragrance would hit you immediately. What may be a sweet smell to humans is very offensive to crows.

In the County's continuing battle with the thousands of crows which roost on and about the Courthouse each night, the latest weapon are two, roof-mounted, fogging machines which put out a mist of grape seed oil.

Maintenance Director Brian Parker explains that when the mist collects on their feathers, "It stimulates their preening activity. So they clean themselves. It gets in their nose and their mouth and supposedly it's similar to hot pepper sauce for a human."

Cortland County hired Binghamton based Ehrlich Pest Control whose workers installed fogging machines this week.

The crows have become more than a noisy pest. Their excrement covers the roof of the historic Courthouse, which washes off the tiles and plugs roof drains. Parker says taxpayers have shelled out $23 hundred this year in repairs to interior ceilings as a result of water backup on the roof. The trees and benches in the park surrounding the Courthouse are littered with crow droppings.

Parker says the county has tried just about everything to scare the crows away. He says loudspeakers playing the calls of predators and the sounds of shotgun blasts, worked for a while but the crows soon became used to them.

Friday evening, Ehrlich Pest Control will spray the grape seed oil on trees. If it works, Parker says the crows of Cortland could become someone else's problem. "They're a very intelligent bird. We'll make it unpleasant for them here, but they're going to find someplace else to roost."