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Lasers latest weapon in battling downtown grackles

Many San Antonians not happy with practice

During the cooler months from October through May, millions of grackles descend upon San Antonio.

The birds have a reputation for being noisy, dirty, and just an overall nuisance.

"Sometimes they can be nasty and gross and do their thing all over the place," said San Antonio resident Tony Martinez.

"They make a mess of your car and you could be walking and they're spitting all over you," said San Antonio resident Leticia Rodriguez.

The Downtown Alliance has tried everything from shooting blanks at the flocks, to releasing predatory hawks downtown in an effort to rid the area of the birds.

Nothing has seemed to work - until this past winter.

The Downtown Association hired a company to point lasers at the flocks of grackles. The lasers confuse and scare the birds.

Within a matter of seconds, an entire flock will fly away.

The Downtown Association claims that last winter, the cost of power-washing sidewalks to rid them of bird droppings fell by 20 percent as a result of the laser program.

As annoying as the birds can be, surprisingly just about everyone KSAT spoke with in the downtown area was dead-set against using lases to chase the birds off.

"No! That's not right! I think shooting the blanks is a lot better than doing the laser. They can effect the birds. It really can, and I like nature. I like birds. I like animals. So, no! " said Rodriguez.

"I think that's just not a good idea. They should leave nature the way it is," said San Antonio resident Kent Carter. "You know what? (The grackles are) a Texas thing, you know? That's what makes Texas special. You go to California, you don't have that. Nevada, that's where I'm from, that doesn't have that."

"They belong to mother nature - the good Lord - and they are flying their freedom," said Martinez.

Martinez noted the one glaring flaw in the method: "Well it just makes them go away to another place where they are going to (have to) spook them again anyway."

The crews point hand-held lasers at the flocks on multiple occasions. Seven days a week around dusk, and five days a week before sunrise.

For a list of recent stories John Honore has done, click here.

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