A black mass of crows is peering down at you from the branches with their beady eyes as you exit the library. This sounds like an eerie scene straight out of an Edgar Allen Poe story, however it was a reality for students at the Hospital Hill Campus every winter.
Every winter hundreds of crows flock to the Hospital Hill campus to roost for the winter months in the trees outside of the UMKC School of Medicine. What seemed to be a fun campus addition turned into an unbelievable headache for students, staff and maintenance alike.
“It was really creepy walking out of the school at night,” said Salvador Rios, a UMKC medical student. “There were what seemed like thousands of crows staring at you and cawing super loud!”
His sentiment matches many of the other students at the Hospital Hill Campus, but most were more vocal about the disgusting consequence of a flock of roosting birds. Namely, the immense amount of fecal matter that the birds were generating.
“The side walk in front of the school was white all winter long and not from snow,” said Matt Zweerink, a student from Hospital Hill. “The smell was so disgusting, it was as if you were in a bad zoo exhibit every day.”
While most students were fed up with the situation at least one student was making the most of it. He wished to remain anonymous for fear of peer reprisal.
“At night when I would get bored I would stand by the windows near the trees,” the anonymous student said. “When I saw someone leaving the building I would pound on the windows. It would startle the birds and they would dive bomb the unsuspecting person.”
Shenanigans aside, the campus had a serious sanitation problem on their hands. The maintenance staff was in a constant struggle for control of the sidewalk.
Every day that it was above freezing the power washers were spraying the sidewalks, and the crows did their best to reverse the cleaning by morning. It was a stalemate that maintenance was determined to break.
Maintenance’s first solution was to place speakers on the outer walls of the Medical school. The speakers would play the loud screeching of birds of prey on a set timer. Unfortunately, the hordes of crows did not seem phased. Instead, the speakers, which were near the library, did a better job at scaring students off.
Finally this winter, the maintenance crew struck gold with an unexpected solution. They employed a giant inflatable man like those found in used car sales lots all over the US. As if they had met their kryptonite, the crows have since disappeared from the campus.
As a student of the campus, I have grown fond of our goofy looking new friend, the defender of Hospital Hill.