Kathy Benner has never seen the raven with her own eyes, but she knows all about it.
Benner, the manager of the Juneau Raptor Center, said people have seen a raven flying around downtown with a blow dart sticking out of its right eye.
“We’ve known about it for well over a month,” Benner said. “We get calls, I’d say, every other day.”
It’s a strange, surreal sight. The faded orange tip of the dart hangs out of the bird’s eye, but somehow the bird seems unaffected. It’s been seen solely downtown, from the parking garage of the State Office Building to the cruise ship docks, Benner said. He was seen just this Monday at Marine Park, according to a post on the Juneau Community Collective Facebook page.
Benner said she and others from the Raptor Center have tried to go out and catch the raven, but that every time she’s gone out on a call, the bird has flown off by the time she’s gotten there. She said that’s a good sign for the bird’s health, that it’s still active.
As of now, she said, the fact that the bird is still eating and flying suggests that the dart must have missed anything important and that the raven is still doing fairly fine on its own.
“It’s disturbing to see,” Benner said, “but the bird is a survivor.”
Benner said that if people see the bird around and it’s starting to get weak or struggling to fly or eat, they should contact the Raptor Center’s emergency pager at 790-5424. Juneau Animal Control Officer Karen Wood said Animal Control has been getting calls about the bird since April 3, and that they always refer callers to the Raptor Center.
Shooting and killing most birds is illegal due to the Migratory Bird Act, but Wood said Wednesday that it’s often difficult to track down offenders. Though the organization doesn’t deal with wild animals, Animal Control does investigate incidents of violence against pets, Wood said.
Wood said they see pellet gun wounds in cats a couple times a year. Cats, unlike dogs, are free to roam around town and sometimes people don’t take kindly to cats wandering onto their property. People are allowed to humanely trap cats and bring them to Juneau Animal Rescue, Wood said, but sometimes they elect to get out their pellet gun instead.
“There are people who, unfortunately, are doing these things to people’s pets,” Wood said. “It’s really hard (to investigate). Unless people witness that or give us other information, it’s almost impossible to find out who’s doing that.”
Wood said that for incidents of violence against domestic animals, call Animal Control at 789-6997. For cruelty to wildlife or hunting violations, the Raptor Center (for birds) and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers (465-4000) are the best organizations to contact.
Sometimes, violators do get caught. In 2016, Fairbanks man Jerry L. Himebauch was fined $1,125 after pleading guilty in federal court to shooting and killing a raven, according to a 2016 report from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. It was suspected at the time that he was involved in the deaths of 25 ravens, but there was only enough proof to convict him for one killing.
Ravens play a large role in Alaska Native culture, and are populous throughout the state. Just this year, Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, introduced a bill to name the raven as Alaska’s state bird instead of the current state bird, the willow ptarmigan. The bill did not progress at all through the Legislature.
There have been other instances across the country of people shooting blow darts and other projectiles at birds, and Wood said that in many cases it’s just a kind of thrill-seeking.
“Sometimes people just do it for sport,” Wood said, “which is truly really cruel.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.