Raven recovering from shotgun blast

Dave Mathieson
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NAPPAN - Whether it's Edgar Allan Poe or studies into animal intelligence, ravens are the stuff of legend, fable, literature and scientific wonder.

"Care of all animals is a top priority but when you have an animal as intelligent as a raven I think the stakes are a bit higher because of its potential to be, possibly, self aware and, possibly, to see itself as an individual being," said Eric Sparling, who is currently taking care of a raven who appears to have fallen victim to a shotgun blast.

Sparling's wife, Tanya, is the owner/operator of the Amherst Veterinary Hospital.

The raven was brought to the vet hospital in the fall and is now being cared for by Eric on the Sparling's property in Nappan.

"The Raven was injured and it was brought into the Amherst Veterinary Hospital by the Department of Natural Resources," said Sparling. "It looks like it was shot by a shotgun because it has a number of small fragments, pellets, that are still inside its body and not removed."

Besides pellets lodged in its body, the raven had several other injuries when it was first brought to the vet hospital by the DNR.

"It had a fractured wing and it had trauma to the one of its shoulders, and it had nerve and soft tissue damage to one leg," said Sparling. "As a result of that leg damage it developed further complications on its other foot as well."

Sparling didn't have contact with the raven for the first couple weeks of its recovery, not until Tanya brought the bird home.

"When it first came here it still couldn't use the one leg properly," said Sparling.

A bird's leg consists of a claw and an elbow. The raven was limping on one elbow and bearing its weight on it's other claw, causing damage to it as well.

"He's now up on it (the other claw)," said Sparling. "That kind of recovery is pretty dramatically important for any bird that has any hopes of living in the wild. It has to be able to perch and walk."

If the raven continues to heal Sparling hopes to release it in the spring.

"He's made a dramatic recovery. His leg seems much improved, and he seems to have some flying ability, but we're not sure."

During the summer, with a permit from DNR, the Sparlings took care of a crow.

"When we got the crow we didn't know if it would be a permanent resident or not," said Sparling. "When I say permanent, it's up to DNR if it's permanent."

The crow got better and was released in the summer.

They also had a pigeon they brought back to health and released.

Sparling makes it clear the raven, or any other bird, is not their property.

"We don't own the raven. It's not a pet...it's a wild animal," said Sparling. "We're keeping it with a permit from DNR, so it's not our property, it could never be our property."

Among the three birds, Sparling seems to approach the raven with the most reverence.

"I think ravens are very intelligent and his body language manifests that," said Sparling.

He says the raven is very curious.

"If he's on his perch and doesn't have a view of something and hears a sound coming up, he moves his head around trying to see what's coming," said Sparling.

"The crow was like that too," he added. "But I think maybe you can see it more in the raven because he's bigger. The raven's movement is more dramatic, so it's pretty neat to see up close."

Will he be sad to see the raven fly away if it's eventually released?

"No I don't think so. There is an attachment but it's not the attachment I have with my pets," said Sparling. "I think ravens are pretty cool, so, if I stop to think about it, it is neat to be interacting with him but, to a certain extent, it becomes a daily routine."

And how does he feel about somebody shooting a raven?

"My understanding, and I'm no expert, but, with the exception of perhaps whales and porpoises that visit our waters, ravens and crows are probably the smartest animals in Canada. They're probably our smartest wildlife," said Sparling. "We can argue back and forth about whether intelligence needs to play a role in animal care but, you know, I don't want to see anybody shoot an animal for fun, OK, at all, but the very last animals people should be shooting for fun are ravens and crows."

Sparling suggests it might help if people wishing to bring harm to ravens and crows, which, together, make up the genus Corvus, look at the birds from a different perspective.

"If you drive down the road and you see a group of crows, instead of seeing them as a decoration at the side of the road that moves around, you can actually think, ‘that's a really smart animal that can solve food puzzles,'" said Sparling.

"When I'm looking at a crow or a raven it might be looking right back at me," he added. "That's a different perspective."


Organizations: Department of Natural Resources, Amherst Veterinary Hospital

Geographic location: Canada

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