New York Blew Up 1,000 Acres To Chase Away Birds (And Failed)
Crows eat crops. That's why we invented scarecrows, and why farms today have all kinds of other methods for repelling birds, from sound machines to lasers. Crows also shower us with bird droppings, and keep making their caw caw noise, so in 1949, the people of Montezuma, New York, had plenty of reasons to hate crows.
Every night, thousands of crows roosted in a 1,000-acre section of wilderness, a kind of swamp called the mucklands. So the farmers came up with a plan: During the day, they'd fill the mucklands with hundreds of bombs. Then when night fell, they'd set the bombs off. They estimated they'd kill 2,000 crows this way, and injure enough that hunters could stroll through afterward and finish them off.
Operation Crow Extermination was to take place on March 26, 1949. The farmers and hunters made 500 bombs, each made of dynamite and 2 pounds of shrapnel. They spent the day laying these down through the mucklands and wiring them together.
Picture this as a movie, maybe done using Claymation. We're guessing that, at some point, you started rooting for the crows. If so, you'll be happy to learn that the crows noticed what the farmers were doing. Well, maybe the birds didn't understand exactly what explosives were, but they knew the farmers were up to something. So that night, they roosted somewhere else a mile away.
The farmers figured they'd look pretty silly if they abandoned the plan at this point, and anyway, collecting all the bombs without detonating them all would be a lot of work, maybe dangerous work. So, even with no prey in the area, they lit the fuses and blew up those thousand acres. They didn't hit a single bird.
Not a big triumph for the famers, who'd spent the 1949 equivalent of a couple grand on supplies. Plus, they'd confidently promised Cornell University 300 dead birds, for research. They were just lucky the crows hadn't picked the bombs up and staged a counterattack (which is definitely how this story ends in that Claymation movie we're picturing).
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