Don’t Try This at Home: The Saga of CORA 16-1623

Common Raven 16-1623, admitted to the clinic on June 22, made himself at home on a table in the Intake Room, appearing completely comfortable in what should have been an alien environment, with four humans observing him. He ate out of bowls, took food from humans’ hands, and displayed curiosity about, well, everything. He tore up paper, flung cotton balls to the floor, and deftly moved peanuts from the stainless steel surface to a bath towel, for a more secure grip to peck them open. Put into a pelibox, the raven clung to netting at the top and protested loudly, until veterinarian Shannon Riggs and volunteer Chris Hudson erected a high perch, from which the bird was able to survey all goings-on in the room. This seemed to calm him, this ability to be at the center of human activity.

The bird had been brought into PWC by a woman from SLO on whose arm he had landed several times, to her surprise, in order to eat peanuts she had in her hand. Clearly, he was habituated, raised by a human. This was not a good thing. Social and intelligent, ravens need to be with other ravens, not humans. “It’s important for wild animals to develop in such a way that they know who and what they are,” Shannon says, and the behavior of this bird is an example of what happens “when well-intentioned people try to raise wildlife,” which, she emphasizes, is illegal.

Shannon can imagine why the human who kept this raven must have eventually let him go, completely ill-equipped though he was to survive in the wild. The bird, she says, is very destructive, “a pain in the butt.” The tragedy is that at his age (about a year after fledging), he’s “like an 18-year-old” human, and “it’s hard to teach him to be another species” (his own) when he thinks of himself as human.

After much thought and consultation with corvid experts, it was decided that longtime volunteer and Education Team member Karen Todd would take the raven to evaluate as a possible Animal Ambassdor. So as of June 29, we no longer have a raven watching over our activities at the clinic, and this is a good thing.

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