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A raven rescue

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 11, 2008

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Madison Hurst, 14, returned home from school one Friday afternoon in May to find a windstorm had dislodged more than dust in his backyard.

The high winds that hit the city around May 15 blew a quartet of flightless baby ravens from their nest to the ground just outside Hurst's backyard gate.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Madison Hurst, 14, shows the wooden box he kept on the roof of his family's backyard shed as a home for three baby ravens who fell out of their nest in a windstorm last month and have since flown the coop. - Katie May/NNSL photo

He suspected something was wrong when he noticed two fully grown ravens on the defence around his family cat.

"The ravens were dive bombing our cat," the Grade 9 Sir John Franklin student said. "The parents were just going berserk."

He found four baby ravens, each about the size of a small chicken, abandoned by their parents near the base of the tree that had been their home. One was already dead, and he decided he'd better rescue the rest.

"There's a lot of people that go back there so I figured they might die if they weren't protected," Hurst said. "We were worried that we would have to feed them because the parents weren't feeding them."

So he set up a makeshift nest - a bin filled with grass - on the roof of his shed, and fed them raw meat and fish for a few days until the two adult ravens resumed their parental duties, eventually returning with food that they'd been lavishing on one baby who managed to stay in the nest during the storm.

His family has taken in stray cats and dogs over the years, but never a family of birds, said Hurst. He marvelled that the baby ravens seemed almost domesticated - they would lean outside of the box to defecate instead of making a mess in their new nest.

As the ravens' wings grew stronger, Hurst grew more attached. He checked on them every day after school, watched them hop around, and helped them out of the nest as they learned to fly. He even picked a favourite before the birds flew out of the nest a week later.

"Two didn't squawk, but one did."

He named that one Kojak.

Kojak, along with his siblings, still like to watch over their former shelter from a post overlooking the Hursts' backyard.

"They're smart birds," he said.