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View count:30,633
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Duration:07:13
Uploaded:2018-04-12
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Jessi tells a true and sad story of why it's so important not to feed wild animals or get them used to humans - it almost always ends badly for the animal.

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 (00:00) to (02:00) Hi.  I'm Jessi, the director of an educational outreach organization called Animal Wonders.  I love animals and I've spent my life rescuing and caring for all kinds of wildlife.  For the last few weeks, I've been spending a lot of time sitting in a car, staring at a wild raven.  Now, this might seem pretty in-character for someone who loves animals as much as I do, but this is far from normal for me.  So today, I'd like to share the sad story of this wild raven in the hope that together, we can make sure no one has to tell a story like this ever again.


(Intro)

I first saw the raven being big and bold, hanging out near the dumpster at an elementary school near where I live.  He was especially big and often had his neck and head feathers puffed up.  I started hearing reports from the teachers at the school that a raven was pulling windshield wipers off the cars in the parking lot.  Shortly after this, a local raptor rehabilitator called me and asked if we could get together to talk about what we could  do to help.

The rehabber had done some excellent work asking around and getting more information about the situation.  She even had video footage of the raven's unusual behavior.  What she found out was, it all started off when a small flock of three ravens was picking through the dumpster at a town gas station.  This is completely normal raven behavior, but the gas station clerk felt bad for them, so she started leaving some food out in the back of her truck, and this is the moment where things went bad.

The youngest raven took advantage and soon began to expect food wherever humans gathered.  We guessed that he was young because we saw him showing submissive or juvenile behaviors to his companions, like crouching and tail wagging, so what we're looking at is probably a young male with his parents.  The young raven had become habituated to humans, which means they no longer fear humans as a predator.  

 A habituated wild animal is a disaster just waiting to happen.  This is where things get more complicated.  At some point, the raven started noticing his reflection in the windows of the truck and started displaying courtship behaviors to his own reflection.  It's the beginning of breeding season and young adult male ravens are driven by hormones.   (02:00) to (04:00) This continued close contact with a truck led him to picking at the rubber bits around the windows, pulling off the windshield wipers, and even destroying the mechanical parts of the side mirrors. This behavior carried over to other locations, including the parking lot at the local school. It became a routine. Every morning the flock would visit the gas station to eat breakfast and then fly to the school. The other two ravens would perch in nearby trees and call to our troublemaker while he strutted around destorying the cars. 


The rehabber and I knew we needed to stop this behavior because often when there's human-animal conflict, it doesn't end well for the animal. We were both worried someone was going to hurt the raven if he didn't stop soon.

The first step was to immediately stop his source of food. So we educated the gas station clerk and she agreed to stop leaving food out. This all could have been prevented and you can make sure this doesn't happen to any other wild animals by remembering to always respect their wildness. Please never feed wild animals and don't try to befriend them. 

The second step was to make the whole situation uncomfortable enough for the raven so he would stop coming around parking lots. We decided to utilize our resources. In this case it was the school children. We asked them to try and scare off the raven every time they saw him on the cars and trucks. By having the students yell and wave their arms at him, we were hoping he could re-lean how to be scared of humans. 

Unfortunately, the scare tactic flat out didn't work. The raven would simply fly up and sit comfortably in a tree, wait for the kids to go away, and then swoop down and do his thing again. This was really disappointing because the only other option to stop the descrution and save the raven's life was to trap him.

 No one wanted to trap him. First of all, none of us are great with taking a perfectly healthy animal out of the wild. And second, it's incredibly difficult to trap an animal as smart as a raven. At this point, the teachers had taken to covering up their windshields with blankets and towels. And even this didn't stop the behavior. He would simply either pull the blankets off or find a car that wasn't covered. We heard whispers that some people were fed up with him and wanted it to end by any means necessary. In this case, that meant shooting him.  (04:00) to (06:00) It was a difficult situation. If we successfully trapped him, we couldn't simply relocate him somewhere else because there was a high chance of him finding his way back to his home and his family. We could try to trap his whole family and relocate them all but it's likely that the troublemaker would just continue his desctructive behavior in the next closest town. The only chance this guy had of surviving was to be trapped and sent to a zoo or other animal facility. Disappointing for sure. But it was either living a life in captivity being cared for by humans or getting shot. 


Okay. So the plan was to set up traps on the vehicles and take turns sitting and watching the raven hoping he would step in one of the traps. We couldn't just leave the traps up because if he did get caught and we weren't there to get him into a crate as soon as possible, he could injure his legs, toes, or wings. We attempted to trap him unsuccessfully for ten days until one morning as we drove down to get set up, we found a dead raven in a nearby field. 

We were worried it was our troublemaker raven and upon x-ray it was found to have been shot. But it wasn't him because that same morning the teacher said our troublemaker was confidently ripping apart another side mirror. But from then on there were only two ravens in the flock. We were very concerned that the raven was shot because someone thought it was our troublemaker. So we doubled our efforts to trap him, but the harder we tried, the harder it became. When he would land near the traps, the children would do what we asked and scare him away or he would simply see the traps and land on a different car. It was very frustrating. But abruptly a week later, it was all over.

On a Friday afternoon, a gunshot was heard. The troublemaker raven did not return. I would sit watching the last remaining raven in the flock perch in their usual tree and call out for his friends. He repeated this off and on all day for the next four days. 

 It's been weeks now and there have been no ravens seen at the cars at the school since that Friday afternoon when the gunshot echoed through the valley. We later heard that that same day, someone had called our state wildlife agency and left a message asking if they could kill a nuisance raven. If they would have waited for an answer, they would have learned that it's illegal to kill a native or migratory bird. It's frustrating that all of our efforts to save our poor confused raven were in vain. (06:00) to (07:13) We couldn't save his life. We failed him. But by sharing his sad story, I hope I can prevent this from happening to any other wild animal. Wild animals should fear humans. Humans are predetors. When wild animals become habituated it can spell disasterous results for the animal. You might think it's neat to get a wild animal to trust you, but by losing their fear of humans, the animal puts themselves in danger of being injured by others who see them as pests and nuisances. If the raven had been left alone to forage and scavenge on his own and not fed out of a truck bed, he never would have thought it was safe enough to be near cars. He would not have courted his own reflection and he wouldn't have started the destructive behavior.


Please let wild animals be wild. Thank you for letting me share the raven's story with you. If you'd like to meet some of the animals that we keep at Animal Wonders or learn some awesome things about animals, subscribe to our YouTube channel Animal Wonders Montana and I'll see you next week.