28 January 2005

(69) The Fine Line between Brilliance and Stupidity

Fort Simpson (Jan 18/02)

Consider for a moment our friend the raven. Everyone seems to have a story about this quintessentially Northern bird.

Most seem to think the raven is some kind of avian Einstein, using trickery and guile to acquire food, torment dogs, or generally cause mayhem. There are Web sites devoted exclusively to ravens and the many clever things they do. Closer to home, renewable resources officer Ken Davidge has seen ravens team up to get at his garbage.

"They would go after my garbage pail which had a rounded bottom and was a little tippy," says Davidge.

Two ravens would get the pail rocking, while a third would go airborne and get a head of steam.

The flying raven would then, "fly down in between them," successfully tipping the barrel.

"Everybody calls them a dumb bird, but they're very clever. Very clever," says Davidge.

On the other hand, the raven is apt to engage in stupid behaviour of the lethal variety.

Just ask Larry Gresl.

The NWT Power Corporation's superintendent in Fort Simpson says that at least twice a year, employees find "crispy fried ravens" lying dead near the company's transformers.

"I think they get between the wires and the transformers," says Gresl.

The sudden demise might be explicable if it fit in with the clever raven's reputation for inconveniencing others, but Gresl notes the birds don't affect the electrical grid.

"It doesn't take us out," he says, "It just takes them out."

Davidge himself has seen evidence of arrogance bordering on stupidity.

A friend of his had a pair of sled dogs staked with a gap of about a metre between them.

"This raven would land in that space and just torment the hell out of them," he says.

Unbeknownst to the feathered tormentor, Davidge's friend moved the stakes so the dogs were "nose to nose."

The next morning, "there was nothing but black feathers," says Davidge.

"I don't know if the bird survived," he adds, "but the look on the dogs' faces was priceless."

Kevin Wilson
Northern News Services