Montana woman searching for "The Lost Crow"
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - He's anything but the common raven, but now he's gone missing, and that makes this case all the more curious.
Unlike the rest of the birds in the Rock Creek area where he was lost, this young raven was raised since infancy in a Grant Creek home. Although he hasn't been seen in two weeks, his owner suspects he will most likely seek out a kind human hand somewhere nearby to secure some grub and shelter.
So if a raven happens to land on your head, all Morgan Erickson-Davis asks you to do is to remain calm and get hold of her as quickly as you can.
Mose - an intelligent 6-month-old raven that has developed a fondness for landing on heads - was rescued as a chick and rehabilitated early this summer by Erickson-Davis. But Mose disappeared Oct. 28 after gunshots spooked him during a camping trip.
"Miss him terribly," says one of the many posters Mose's worried caretaker has papered the Rock Creek and Philipsburg areas with since his disappearance. The "Lost Crow!" poster has garnered a fair amount of attention, but no one has reported even a Mose sighting in the days he's been missing.
"I've brought him camping before, he usually stays close by. I didn't realize it was hunting season. I should have just turned around when I saw the hunters camping there," Erickson-Davis said.
Mose flew away from Erickson-Davis and her dog, Xiao-bai, during a camping trip to Stony Creek campground. The noise of hunters near camp sighting in their guns spooked Mose.
The hunt to find Mose so far has been a one-woman effort by Erickson-Davis, who has done hiking searches, knocked on ranch doors in the area and posted the fliers.
She knows it's hard to distinguish this raven from that raven, but notes on the poster that the "bottom part of his beak is a little crooked and he has one white feather on the left side of his back."
But what makes Mose really special is his unique behavior. "He can speak a few words, and enjoys landing on people's heads," the poster says.
Erickson-Davis wasn't prepared for how enthralled and attached she'd become when she rescued the little raven last spring. She found the 2-week-old Mose pushed from his nest near the Clark Fork River on a trail in May. His legs were splayed and malformed, and he'd been abandoned. Erickson-Davis took Mose to her Grant Creek home and fixed his legs with splints. Within a couple of weeks, his legs were straight and he'd learned to fly.
Erickson-Davis did a fair amount of research on birds, but didn't find much in the way of a guide for raising one. So she relied on trial and error and past knowledge. An animal lover - "They make me happy," she said - Erickson-Davis spent a lot of time as a kid rehabilitating songbirds, and was licensed in animal rehabilitation in her home state of Minnesota.
In fact, people who find injured birds should turn them over to licensed rehabilitators rather than keep them as pets, which is illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Erickson-Davis figured Mose, like most birds she's cared for in the past, would slowly wean himself from her care and finally take off for good to join other ravens in Missoula. He was free to go anytime, but he never left and instead became a big part of Erickson-Davis' everyday life.
"He loves to be petted. If I scratch him a certain way, he loves it," she said.
Her observations of Mose and his unusual loyalty inspired her to apply to graduate school, where she's hoping to study avian behavioral ecology.
Mose certainly gave her a lot to ponder. The bird loves hamburger. He'd tease the equally mischievous Xiao-bai (pronounced "Shaa-bee"), and the pair would eventually play tug-of-war. Hold up a quarter and a nickel, and Mose will indicate which is larger.
"Mose displayed behavior I haven't read about. He likes to soften his food, he'd experiment with dipping it in water. I used to soften his food when he was young. He likes sorting objects, food from non-food. I'd never heard of that," Erickson-Davis said.
Perhaps his favorite part of the day was doing the "chicken chores." He helped pass his own pile of feed - grain by grain - through the chicken wire to fellow birds Erickson-Davis keeps. But this was only after he'd served as Erickson-Davis' alarm clock for the day.
He rode in her car all the way to Minnesota this summer, and when left outside, visited different houses in the Grant Creek area, collecting tidbits of snacks. Potty training Mose was harder than teaching him words, and he made the occasional mistake, but mostly he would go on a towel strung across the couch.
"He's really good at that. He's pretty clean," she said.
Erickson-Davis remains worried but positive as she continues the search for her missing friend. She checks out her window for him often.
The "Lost Crow!" posters have prompted quite a few people to contact Erickson-Davis. Most are well-wishers. A few claim to have been in the area when Mose was lost. All say they'll keep an eye out for him. But no one has seen him yet.
Worst-case scenario, Erickson-Davis said, is that Mose is lost in the wilderness, where he won't know how to find food and has fallen prey to bigger birds, like eagles and hawks.
Best-case scenario is that he's already sought out people for food and protection. Also, it's possible but not probable Mose did what Erickson-Davis suspected all along - joined a flock of ravens and returned the wild