With Friends Like These . . .

Our interaction with the local ravens has increased recently, for better and worse.

Unlike the ravens that frequent towns, our ravens are relatively mild mannered: quiet (mostly) reserved, perhaps even contemplative. They generally sit quietly in the trees or on the Power Point, watching us work. They patrol our beach a couple times daily, looking for dead voles from our traps, fish waste, or chicken bones, which we generally toss out for them when available. They nest nearby, which I understand explains their reserve.

Lately, though, they’ve ramped up their presence. I mentioned the squirrel hunting incident before. They’ve been very pleased with the number of voles we’ve tossed on the beach, but not satisfied. One raven has started checking the traps for us, removing any dead voles it can find. That may have led them to start hunting live voles in the garden. This is where the problem started.The ravens are welcome to all the voles they can eat. It’s not even a problem that they’re tearing up the ground to get into the tunnels and burrows. Even sorting through the compost bins isn’t a huge problem, as long as they’re killing voles.

However, they can’t have the fish we’ve buried in the grow boxes! In one morning, a single raven apparently dug up all the available fish, regardless of decomposition. We’ve heard of neighbors having this trouble, but this is the first time we’ve ever experienced it.

In going after the fish, they dig up and trample seedlings. They may even be eating the potato starts. We’ve had to cover all the beds with reemay, old windows, even plywood to keep them out.

My initial thought is that the ravens’ normal food situation must be becoming desperate, and I may be right: their fledglings are teenagers now!

Ravens commonly continue to feed their young long after they fledge. Yesterday morning at 4:00 a.m., the local brood gathered in the trees above the homestead to yell. No one seems to know why, but young ravens love to vocalize loudly for long periods at a time. This isn’t the lovely, bell-like tones that ravens can make, but the rude, coarse “caw!” that one usually associates with crows. They settled on the beach for awhile, their ruffs scruffy in the wind, blasting away at each other. It’s comical, as long as you’re ready to wake up anyway. They’re almost as big as their parents. No wonder there’s a scramble for food lately.

This situation is common to all our interactions with local wildlife. The ravens use us for their purposes, or ignore us completely. We benefit from their activities or not, as the case may be. Our personal feelings of warmth, amusement, annoyance or otherwise toward them have no bearing on the matter.

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4 Responses to With Friends Like These . . .

  1. Neighbors says:

    What kind of vole traps do you use? I’m guessing that’s what just chiseled my kale and young cabbages off at the base of the stems…

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    We use two kinds of traps. Mostly, we use mouse traps. The problem we find with them is that, being inexpensive, they’re also cheaply built, with staples that often get pulled out by the force of the spring. We also use live traps, which work well, but require taking personal property for killing the catch.

  3. Neighbors says:

    Thanks! I bought some mouse traps yesterday and bait them, but didn’t set them (read that on the UAF extension site). But this morning there were leaves of chard strewn about… I baited and set them all!!! I also cleared some of the mulch away from the crime scenes. Thanks for the advice!

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Michelle feels that clearing the cover is essential. She’s designing the garden with lots of open space around the grow boxes to make the critters cross open ground. We use peanut butter for bait, which works well (and we inherited a #10 can of ancient PB from the previous owners) although we try to smear the pressure plate well, because they can lick it off without setting the trap. I keep wanting to try tying a thread to the plate, and coating that, so they have to work at it, but so far we haven’t gone that far.

    Of course, there’s always blow guns. That’s my preferred method, although the traps are better, as they’re always “on,” while I tend to wander off to go fishing, etc. after a while!

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