Crow gallows: “medieval” but effective practice

Carrion crows and rooks are a growing scourge for farmers. Suspending the corpses of birds in the fields to keep their congeners away, the method is recommended, but still unworthy.

The bird must be dead before being hung on a gallows in the middle of a field.

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“I am shocked by such a spectacle, from which escapes an air of the Middle Ages! This is animal abuse! It is unacceptable!” A sexagenarian on a walk in the North of Vaud has not recovered from having seen, a few days ago, the corpses of crows hanging from gallows in the middle of fields.

“Scaring with corpses is an ancestral practice, which is one of the methods recommended by wildlife and hunting specialists, answers Christian Aeberhard, executive assistant at Prométerre, the Vaud association for the promotion of land trades. . If they shock our fellow citizens, it is because they are unaware of the considerable damage caused by these birds and the very limited means that farmers have to deal with it.

A growing scourge

Pigeons, carrion crows and rooks are “a veritable scourge in full expansion in recent years; on the one hand, by the growth of their populations and, on the other hand, by the disappearance of the chemical means of repulsion”. Because most of the repellents that coated the seeds have been banned from use in Switzerland. “Targeted regulatory measures are therefore sometimes necessary,” confirms the Vaudois Department of the Environment and Safety (DES).

Christian Aeberhard explains that these crows are “very intelligent and constantly adapt to new dangers that await them”. He considers that the use of falconry, as in France, is “an effective method”. But this hunting activity is not authorized in Switzerland.

According to the Swiss Ornithological Station, hanging birds show “not really any quantifiable effectiveness”. “This is a passive deterrent, which has good temporary effectiveness, continues Christian Aeberhard. After bird attacks on freshly germinated plants, in most cases the culture must be re-seeded, sometimes 2-3 times. According to Vaudois farmers, more than 200 hectares per year are affected.

We don’t let them agonize

But “farmers are not empowered to kill the crows themselves,” says the DES. Most of these birds, before being suspended, were either injured on the road, or shot by hunters or wildlife wardens, with prefectural authorization. It is “in no way living animals that we would leave to die”.

Prométerre specifies that hunters are prohibited from firing near dwellings or in the presence of walkers, and must use a shotgun, requiring a shot 30 meters from the prey. However, each canton decides on the legal bases on which this regulation is based.

In recent years, the City of Yverdon (VD) has tried everything to limit the proliferation of rooks, whose noise and droppings disturbed the citizens; after the lasers, the sound disturbances, the scaring drones, the destruction of nests or the shots, the bird has always resisted. In 2020, Harris buzzards were on a mission to scare away crows. Contacted for an assessment of the operation, the Works and Environment Department did not respond.

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