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Pesky crows murdering Langara fields

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Crows are ripping up fields all over the city to get to the delicious insects and grubs under the grass (Kera Skocrylas)
Crows are ripping up fields all over the city to get to the delicious European chafer beetle grubs under the grass (Photo: Chris Slater)

Reported by Kera Skocylas

 

Although crows appear to be systematically destroying Langara’s front field, one expert said these plumed pests aren’t the only guilty party.  It turns out it’s not beaks, but paws and claws causing the initial damage to area grass.

Over the past few weeks, many Langara students said they have noticed dozens of crows around campus, pecking holes in the grass.  According to the City of Vancouver’s website, the damage caused to local turf is attributed to the European chafer beetle (first discovered locally in 2001) and the wildlife tearing up the turf to feast on them.

But the crows are not really to blame according to a UBC applied biology expert, Murray Isman, who explained that the damage caused to area turf is a chain reaction of raccoons and skunks tearing up the grass to feast on the beetle and crows coming to scavenge what’s left.

Langara health science student Charlene Puche said she has noticed a lot of crows on campus. She said she is no crow expert, but wonders why they are so many around. (Photo Kera Skocrylas)
Langara health science student Charlene Puche said she has noticed a lot of crows on campus. She said she is no crow expert, but wonders why there are so many around. (Photo Kera Skocrylas)

Langara health science student Charlene Puche said she has noticed a lot of crows on the field at Langara. “If the fields look weird, it’s probably because of the crows,” she said.

Isman said the damage caused to lawns he’s seen, both around his neighbourhood and UBC, are likely attributed to this particular beetle.  However, Isman said he believes it’s not crows that are actually physically tearing up Lower Mainland turf.

“I actually think it’s raccoons and skunks that are ripping up the lawns and the crows are just going up and cleaning up the debris,” he said.

Isman said he doesn’t think crows are physically capable of being able to tear up turf.

“I don’t think the crows could rip up a square foot of turf, but racoons and skunks certainly can.  I don’t think the crows are quite the culprits in this one,” he said.

Derek Matthews, chairman of Vancouver Avian Research Centre, explained that crows are scavengers and when they’re digging in the ground, they’re searching for various invertebrates for food.  He said that crows in groups exchange information to one another about where to find food.

Matthews said that at this time of year, crows congregate in large numbers to sleep in communal groups called roosts which can range in size from a few hundred to millions, which is why they are so visible right now.

“Crows are not evil, they are just trying to live their lives and feed their families just like we are,” Matthews said.

How the European chafer beetle leads to the destruction of grass turf. (Created with Easelly)
How the European chafer beetle leads to the destruction of grass turf. (Created with Easelly)

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