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Picture an overcast day in Terre Haute, Indiana. The sky is thick with dark clouds and a heavy, unpleasant odor. A lonely breeze carries the aroma down empty streets, the town residents hesitant to step foot outdoors.
That odor; it's from ... The birds.
According to researchers, approximately 32,000 crows have descended upon the city this winter. No one is certain why the birds have descended upon Terre Haute year after year, but some have conjectured that they are attracted by the warmth and lights.
Whatever the reason, many citizens are cautious to step outside their homes.
But it's not ornithophobia (fear of birds) that keeps them indoors. Rather, it's what the crows are leaving behind.
A thick blanket of bird droppings covers everything: sidewalks, trees, benches.
"All we really see is droppings, because as far as we can tell the crows only come out at night," said Patti Strong, operations manager at the museum. "This is the worst I've ever seen it."
Many downtown employees agree with Strong's sentiment. This year's crow population seems to be making a bigger mess than usual.
Worse yet, city officials say they don't have power-washing equipment to help business owners clean up sidewalks.
Is it safe to walk through all that poo?
According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, "health risks from birds are often exaggerated." However, "large populations of roosting crows may present risks of disease to people nearby.
"The most serious health risks are from disease organisms growing in accumulations of droppings, feathers, and debris under a roost. This is most likely to occur if roosts have been active for years."
For now, the residents will just have to watch where they step and hope for a power-cleaning rainstorm.