by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
The Road Kill Who Survived
I had just turned the corner, driving onto the road that circles Markville, a large shopping center in the middle of the suburban Markham, where I live, just north of Toronto. Sadly, on the northbound lane, right in the space where cars’ tires go, was a dead crow, on its back. Obviously it had just been hit; the next car would almost certainly squash him, but he was intact.
(Photo courtesy Solitudes)
And then I noticed that his chest went up and down. He was alive, if just barely. I parked illegally and with thoughts of some car’s wheel crushing only part of him, with subsequent horrific suffering, I put up my hand to stop traffic, and went and picked him up. The next car’s driver realized my intent and stopped, thus blocking the cars behind him and protecting me, and the dying crow.
Four other crows on a lamp standard were cawing madly, as crows so often do when one of the flock has fallen. The crow was limp in my hand. I held him upright against my chest with my left hand, driving with my right, taking him straight to the nearest veterinarian office to be euthanized. It was a drive of little more than a mile.
And in that mile the bird seemed to come around, just a little.
Wayne, the head vet and a long-time friend, was on duty and came out to look at the bird. He certainly felt that the crow had a chance. My late mother was well known for her work in wildlife rehabilitation, taking care of birds particularly, and if I have any expertise at all, it is with regard birds. I could tell that while the bird no doubt had internal trauma, there were no broken bones and no indication of seriously damaged muscles. He was sore, probably had internal bleeding and he needed time to heal, if healing was possible. I was loaned a cat crate to put him in, and I drove him home.
I set up a dog kennel I happened to have in the furnace room, and put him in. He could stand, but seemed, not surprisingly, dazed. I would keep him for a few days, but if he didn’t eat, didn’t respond, the kindest thing would be to euthanize him.
Day after day after day I worked with him, feeding him, changing the cage, and providing fresh water, but while he ate, he did not indicate that he could fly and he never cawed. I thought what he needed was more space and a more natural setting and phoned my friends, Chris and Pete, at Solitudes, a wildlife rehab facility in central Ontario, and explained the situation. Could they help? Of course, and they had an aviary with another crow in it, and would be down my way and could come to my house, thus saving me a day of driving back and forth.
They took him home and the next day I was sent photos of the crow in his new, but very temporary, home. He is showing signs of full recovery, gets along with the other crow, flies perfectly and will soon be released right there, in the boreal forest, where the crows greatly outnumber the cars! I am thrilled.
You see I’ve known crows, some of them as beloved companion animals, since childhood and I know that they are special. Members of the family Corvidae, which includes crows, ravens, jays and magpies, are widely considered the most intelligent of the birds, capable of play, social interaction and problem solving. Crows are among the few birds known to use tools to obtain food. They seem so totally engaged in their activities and their environment, in each other, and in the act of living, performed full out and with happy abandon.
Believe it or not, I feel sorry for crow hunters — those people who take great pleasure in shooting crows, never really depleting the population, but convincing themselves that they are doing something necessary, ridding the world of what they consider a pest. They never take the time to get to know crows as I have known them, and although they don’t know it, the loss is theirs. Of course I feel sorrier for their victims, who, for all their intelligence, are innocent creatures with survival needs far less damaging to their environment than our own.
One crow’s life may not be much in the greater scheme of things, but to that crow awaiting release, his life is an ongoing adventure and I’m happy to have played a small, but crucial, roll in allowing that adventure to continue.