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On The Wings Of A Predator

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Doug Dunbar
Doug is co-anchor of CBS 11 News at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. He is a mult...
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - In the newsroom, it was the YouTube video that got us. Everyone who watched it was mesmerized. A local falconer figured out a way to rig up his Peregrine falcon with a camera and now we could see—literally—a bird’s eye view.

The bird is beautiful, but also deadly if you happen to be an unsuspecting grackle or starling. And that’s the point. Big flocks of birds become a nuisance when they decide to roost in North Texas malls, hospitals, and airports. What’s worse, they can’t take the hint to move on.  Loud noises, lasers, and fake owls may work for a night or two, but the flocks figure out they’re being duped and return.

Enter Roger Crandall with Fal-Tech Bird Control.  He’s a falconer out of Fort Worth who’s been working with birds since he was 12. When he first moved to North Texas, he noticed the bird problem and wondered if he could train one of his Harris hawks to hunt at night to encourage the flocks to find safer ground. It worked. Now business is booming. Crandall says he’s one of only six falconers in Texas who’s commercially licensed to do this.

Here’s how it works. A client calls Crandall and he comes out to assess how big the job is and how many birds he’ll need. On the night we went with him to a Fort Worth motel, he brought Cujo, one of his Harris hawks. The demonstration was over quickly. Crandall released Cujo, Cujo caught one bird and that was that—work was done for the night. Cujo generally will take one bird a night and after a few nights of this, the flock relocates.

It’s a successful but tricky business. Crandall wants to keep his birds fed but not so full they won’t want to hunt. And a raptor is not like a dog. Crandall is under no illusions that no matter how much he cares for Cujo and his other birds, he is just being tolerated by them. Modern falconers even have GPS tracking devices in case their birds decide to take off permanently. They’re beautiful birds but they take a lot of time, attention and money. Still, leaving Crandall, he says he can’t imagine life any other way.

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