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Too clever by half

Smart ravens do stupid things

Kevin Wilson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 09/02) - If ravens are so darned smart, why do they do such stupid things sometimes?

Case in point, last week's object lesson that touching live wires is harmful to ravens and other living things.

NNSL Photo

This raven should stop looking so satisfied with itself. Every few months, one of its colleagues gets incinerated doing exactly what this bird is doing. Yet another raven got zapped last Wednesday, cutting power to residents near the airport for about three minutes. - Kevin Wilson/NNSL photo

One of the allegedly clever birds learned the lesson the hard way while alighting some equipment owned by Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

The equipment in question was a probably a simple power line, according to NWTPCs Allen Mueller.

Perhaps it's Darwin's way of thinning the feeble-minded out of the gene pool, but you'd think ravens would figure it out after watching a few of their pals get incinerated.

"It's not uncommon. Maybe about three or four times a year, it happens," said Mueller.

The power company had to scramble to restore power to residents living near the airport.

Of the raven, there wasn't a trace to be found. Employees are still combing the grid looking for some sign of the unfortunate avian.

Mueller said the birds, known in power company parlance as "buzzards," often like to perch on wires and hydro poles. All well and good, until the birds either flap their wings the wrong way or land on a piece of exposed wire.

When that happens Mueller said employees "usually find a raven carcass at the bottom of a hydro pole," or worse a few bird bits.

Of course, it's entirely possible the raven knew exactly what it was doing. What with five hours of sunlight, temperatures hovering in the -25 C range, and nothing but garbage to eat, what creature wouldn't feel like slipping this mortal coil?

Mueller, for one, isn't sure.

"I haven't met any raven psychologists yet," he said.