Ravens ‘boom’ around county

Article shows typical livestock owners hatred of any non-commercial animal-

Crows, ravens and magpies (corvids) in large populations are often the result of a disturbed environment. They are the smartest of birds. Like humans, they learn fast and thrive in changed circumstances, pushing out species that need a more stable environment.

This article in the Sublette Examiner (Pinedale, Wyoming) shows a typical hostility to them. These livestock people should look at their own practices if they don’t like the large number of ravens.

As for myself, me and my buddies used to shoot magpies when we were teenagers. There was no reason.  A friend said “they’re bad for farmers, and there’s a bounty on them.” We cut off a bunch of their heads, but could never figure out how to collect our damn nickel for each.

Now, I feel stupid for shooting birds that were probably smarter than some people (sarcastic exaggeration). Fortunately, now you can’t legally just shoot them (as the article bemoans). Of course, our old friends at the agency for wildlife killing can poison them.

Ravens ‘boom’ around county. By Mari Muzzi. Sublette Examiner.





  1. Cris Waller Avatar

    Hah, look who they interviewed! Anti-wolf activist Cat Urbigkit. I guess next we can expect a “Raven Watch” website, with lurid stories of corvid menaces.

    What’s next? My guess is a plague of Vorpal Rabbits. Or maybe jackalopes.

  2. Cris Waller Avatar

    Also, does anyone kow what poison they are talking about in the article? I can’t find anything matching their description of a corvid-only toxicant in the literature- the two poisons I found listed for avian control, DRC-1339 and Avitrol, most certainly will kill other animals that ingest them- not just ravens. Avitrol is listed as toxic to all vertebrate species. DRC-1339 is especially toxic to felines and owls.

  3. Salle Avatar

    In situations where livestock are harmed and human health is in danger Wildlife Services is permitted to take stronger action through its contract with the county predator board.

    So are the WS gang going to use helicopters to shoot the ravens?

    With the proper permits, management can include shooting birds and using an avian poison specially designed to only harm the Corvide family, which consists of ravens and crows.

    “It’s a very controlled and regulated process,” he said, explaining when poison is used in meat-based bait the area must be monitored while using the poison. The amount of bait and length of time it is positioned is also regulated.

    Merrill said the poison destroys the acid inside a raven’s liver and causes the bird to die in a four- to six-hour period.

    However, he said, there are no concerns of secondary poisoning to other birds, animals and humans.

    I wonder how it is that there is such a specific poison. Four to six hours is a cruel way to go. That’s a lot of pain and suffering. I guess if you hate something that much, the more pain and suffering inflicted, the more you can feel satisfied that you “got the bastard”?

    In many Native American belief systems, Ravens are sacred. The represent the transportation of prayers and magic in absentia. This means that it is believed that they carry the strength of the prayers or magic to those who are the subject of the prayers, though distant, from those who pray for them and vise-versa. All the more reason for those rancher folks to hate them I guess, they sure are nasty to the Native Americans in that area.

    So why can’t these ranchers just keep a clean feed storage and dispensary? Why don’t they “tend” to their cattle/sheep instead of expecting that horrible federal govmint to save them form nature so they can do something other than their jobs?

  4. JW Avatar

    I wonder if the local noblemen will request that Obama pull some troops out of Afghanistan to help them with this “horrific situation”? Of course our taxpayers $ will pay for the whole thing…

  5. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    The corvid family also includes jays and nutcrackers.

    Ravens do not migrate. If they stay in Alaska all year why would they be migratory in Wyoming? I know from having lived there that they are year long residents in Maine and Montana.

  6. Salle Avatar

    I have never known of Ravens to be a migrating bird. In fact, looking at my copy of David Allen Sibley’s The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America both species of Ravens do not migrate. Apparently these “specialists” don’t even know what they are dealing with… no surprise there.

    I suspect that the biggest buggaboo for these folks is that the birds are smarter than they are… can’t be having that.

    The birds that I have noticed that robbins, though the field guide shows that they migrate, in many places no longer do so. Robins are in Pocatello year round and groups into rather large flocks. I recall that Robbins’ reappearance was one of the first signs of spring when I was a child in New England.

  7. Linda Hunter Avatar

    A rancher’s story:

    They killed all the rabbits so the coyotes and golden eagles had nothing else to eat but cows, then they killed the coyotes and golden eagles and then started on starving bobcats. All because they thought the rabbits ate too much grass. Like in Oregon and Washington the tree farms remove all the brush and weeds so the trees can grow, taking all the black bear food away, then the black bears eat the trees and so they kill the black bears. After more than 200 years of killing mistakes you would think we could learn but wildlife services seems busier than ever.

  8. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    It’s a very controlled and regulated process,” he said, explaining when poison is used in meat-based bait the area must be monitored while using the poison. The amount of bait and length of time it is positioned is also regulated.

    Merrill said the poison destroys the acid inside a raven’s liver and causes the bird to die in a four- to six-hour period.

    Zinc phosphide
    Zinc phosphide is a single dose toxicant that is generally
    less toxic than 1080 or strychnine and is slower acting. When
    it is ingested and comes into contact with water and hydrochloric
    acid in the gastrointestinal tract, highly toxic phosphine
    gas is formed (Henderson and Boggess 1979). Because
    the phosphine gas does not accumulate in tissue of poisoned
    animals, zinc phosphide has a low risk of secondary poisoning
    (Savarie 1981). Previously, 35 studies were completed in
    support of the reregistration of zinc phosphide. In May 1991,
    a Zinc Phosphide Consortium was formed by APHIS, state
    agencies, and private industry to generate funds to acquire
    data required by a March, 1991 EPA DCI requesting at least 9
    more studies for the active ingredient. The EUP requirements
    are not yet known.Baits made from Compound DRC-1339 Concentrate-ID may only be used to control common ravens
    (Corvus corox), American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), black-billed magpies (Pica pica) and
    pigeons (Columbia livia) in and around feedlots and dairies.

  9. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    Certainly alot of issues raised in the article. With due respect to the author, I would not expect a reporter from the Sublette County Examiner, an avian expert.

    Ravens, like crows and other jays, are highly susceptible to West Nile virus.

    Bird feces contamination of food stores is quite common, as is contimination of other spaces. Many years ago I was involved in a mitigation of such a contamination, in this instance pigeons. The cost of the environmental clean-up was about $9 million for the attic area of a manufacturing facility.

    People underestimate the effect of large flocks of birds – crows, starlings, etc. as a vector for disease.

    Whether ravens (which I like very much, and respect for their place in Native American lore, and fun personality) fall into the catagory of birds needing control seems to be a question of the hour.

    Indeed, ravens and crows find sanctuary under the Migratory Birds Act. Query whether this is just a convenient place to ensure their legal protection, and there is no need to prove that they are, in fact, a migratory species.

    As for any once migratory species, if they find what they need to survive, why would they bother if it did not affect their breeding rituals. In fact, think of all the Canadian geese that no longer migrate, finding what they need in public parks, golf courses, and the occasional farmer who plows a few feeding areas and throws out some corn or grain.

  10. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    Sorry, this was a work in progress and I hit the submit button. It looks to me like it is probably not zinc phosphide but DRC-1399 which they are using. It does kill other birds.


  11. foolonthehill Avatar

    This story real shows the ignorance and dis-respect that some people have toward wildlife. Ravens are extremely smart birds, and deserve our respect, as they are given in most cultures through out the world as mythical figures. I guess there are just some people who need something to hate and blame for all their problems. And what about all the contamination of land and water by their precious livestocks feces? But a bird shits and suddenly its a threat to health. Hypocrites!

  12. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Read Bern Heinrich’s “Mind of the Raven” book for he bet in-depth review of this avian species. Heinrich is professor emeritus of biology, the University of Vermont, and lives with ravens in Maine.

  13. Salle Avatar

    I didn’t get the impression that they are very concerned about what other species they kill, as long as they get the one thy are after.

    As far as “cleaning up” after birds, I’ll ask this again:

    So why can’t these ranchers just keep a clean feed storage and dispensary? Why don’t they “tend” to their cattle/sheep instead of expecting that horrible federal govmint to save them form nature so they can do something other than their jobs?

    I mean, isn’t it their responsibility to do so?

    Reminds me of the clowns who ride snowmobiles across state lines within a national forest and then complain when they are fined for not getting proper licenses for each state… claiming that they were unaware so it’s somebody else’s fault. and decry that they received a fine. It’s their responsibility to know what they are doing.

  14. Linda Hunter Avatar

    To turn to poison as a remedy is short sighted. It would be wonderful if wildlife services looked in to the cause and effect of problems and did research instead of reaction. I bet they would like it better too. For instance, in Seattle their are huge flocks of geese in all the parks . . too many for the health of the birds and the other wildlife including humans. The reason they are their is that they already killed most of the coyotes and ever time someone sees a mountain lion anywhere they kill that too. Dogs are on leashes and people feed the birds. Animals killing animals is the way it works or the biology of fear is what keeps animals moving and being healthy. I wonder how bad the problem will have to get before people in Seattle will welcome back the coyote. Then there is the overfed animal . . allowing crows to get to corn will only speed up their reproduction. Poisoning the atmosphere may be more expensive in the long run than just controlling the access to rich food, although I am sure in the short run it looks cheaper. Maybe I am being too optimistic, but it seems if the wildlife services is already in place how much would it take to get them to use science, cause and effect and common sense to solve “pest” problems rather than being the killing (current management) tool.

  15. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse


    ++So why can’t these ranchers just keep a clean feed storage and dispensary? Why don’t they “tend” to their cattle/sheep instead of expecting that horrible federal govmint to save them form nature so they can do something other than their jobs?++

    I do not aspire to defend ranch operations. It is not easy to tell from the article how the birds are getting at the feed. However, if there is any kind of feeding involving grain or corn there is bound to be spillage around feed troughs, some inacessible to the livestock, or in very small amounts (from the feed animal’s perspective) in many places. A few kernels here and there the livestock won’t bother with, and the birds and rodents are likely to get them. Holes in storage containers or access to a storage shed are also a problem. It doesn’t take a very big hole for bird access. I am going to guess it would be an expensive effort to keep a clean operation.

    The article does point out that places to land, congregate and poop while in place, seems to be a problem. What if they eat the corn then go roost on a haystack in a covered but open barn, and poop on the hay where it is then eaten by the cattle or sheep?

    Ever wonder how many rats are around the vats used to make Best Foods mayonaise, or the manufacturing equipment for Kellogs corn flakes? Alot.

    A flock of crows is called – “a murder of crows.”

    I can’t say I have ever seen a flock of ravens, but does anyone know what a flock of ravens is called?

  16. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    Ravens, unlike crows, are not flocking birds. A mated pair stays together throughout the year and defends their territory. Several may gather at the same carcass.

    I wonder what the raven population is in Sublette County; they killed 98 last year and are asking for 300 this year?

    “This product contains a slow acting avicide which kills target birds in 1 to 3 days. As many types of
    nontarget bird species are potentially vulnerable to DRC-1339, it is necessary to use care and to follow
    the requirements of this label to minimize impacts to nontarget species.” (from the reference listed above)

  17. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    Just came across an internet article from Sweden. It seems a flock of ravens is called a “conspiracy of ravens.” Assuming they are speaking of the same taxonomic genus/species, this “conspiracy” is responsible for killing 14 calves.


    If they can flock in Sweden, why not here?

  18. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    a group of ravens is called an “unkindness”

    Crows, as you stated is called a “murder”


  19. cc Avatar

    “In fact, think of all the Canadian geese that no longer migrate, finding what they need in public parks, golf courses…”

    Resident Canada geese are not migratory geese that stopped migrating. They are the descendents of wild geese unable to fly and captive bred geese that were released.

    Hunters used to use injured wild geese or captive raised geese to lure in wild migratory geese to shoot. When hunting laws banned the use of live decoys, these geese were released. At the same time many people liked Canada geese and many were released for aesthetic reasons. The descendents of these geese haved no knowledge/instinct of migration needs and routes.

    The abundance of both geese and corvids and the associated problems are our fault. Killing them is the easy (lazy), short term (short-sighted) solution and therefore these birds are often demonized to quell public opposition.

  20. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I have heard a flock of ravens referred to as: A conspiracy of ravens, an unkindness of ravens, a constable of ravens.

    Here is some of the various names for groups of birds:


  21. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse


    Sorry, but I’m skeptical of your assertion. I do not know where you live, but let me tell you what happend in an area where I was. In the early 1980’s I was living in Colorado, along the Front Range, north of Denver, where there are dozens of small irrigation reservoirs. These waterbodies are on the North American migratory fly way. At that time, there was huge concern about a dwindling Canadian goose migatory population. There were no geese in the parks or on golf courses, then. I even looked for Christmas cards with geese on them, for my annual greeting (National Wildlife Federation, I think).

    These migratory geese nested in the reservoir areas, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife could not figure out why the goslings did not survive and be able to migrate with their parents. Studies were conducted by Colorado State Univesity Wildlife Department to determine cause. It turns out there were snapping turtles in some of the reservoirs and they were feeding on the young goslings as they paddled around in the water. Reservoirs were poisioned, and snappers removed. Thirty years later there are geese everywhere, including the parks and golf courses.

    I think for other parts of the Country, better hunting season control resulted in more geese. Also, the geese figured out they were safer in urban areas away from hunters and predators (coyotes). This, in turn got them habituated to humans, in these areas as well as figuring out that humans will also give you bread if you bug them. Now they are everywhere, cemeteries, golf courses, parks, and some cities have to hire trained dogs to disperse them (doesn’t work because they just come back), or lethally dispose of them.

  22. Mike Avatar

    What a disturbing story. I agree that many ravens are probably more intelligent than many humans.

    The problem with using poisons that “selectively target” is that our ability to produce these idiotic poisons always seems to supercede our abiltiy to manufacture accurate testing mechanisms for all the the possible effects.

  23. Mike Avatar

    Upon further reading of the article, it sounds like
    Cat Urbigkit and his ranch is the problem, not the ravens. Maybe he should find a job and move to the city where the lack of animals would not be a problem for him.

  24. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    Chicago Mike,

    Cat Urbigkit is a “she.”

  25. cc Avatar

    I should have restricted my comments about resident Canada geese to the eastern and midwestern U.S. But I suspect the Central and Pacific flyways were not completely immune to similar manipulation. In the Atlantic flyway it was primarily private individuals and even state agencies releasing captive raised birds. In the Midwest flyway it was efforts to restore native populations of geese.

    USFWS Resident CAGO management EIS:

  26. Layton Avatar


    The bounty on magpies, gophers, and ground squirrels was collected at the county office — at least in Gem and Adams counties — that’s what kept me in .22 shells.

  27. Mike Avatar

    North America Muse –

    Thanks for the pointless clarification.

  28. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Cat Urbigkit doesn’t seem the most reliable source to me. I have never heard anyone complain about ravens killing livestock or causing that kind of damage.

  29. Salle Avatar

    “The abundance of both geese and corvids and the associated problems are our fault. Killing them is the easy (lazy), short term (short-sighted) solution and therefore these birds are often demonized to quell public opposition.”

    Couldn’t agree more.

    As for the Urbigkits,they have been whiners about everything they can’t control. And as far as the story, I’d be willing to bet hat if the reporter will listen, better tell a good one… could be their motto.

  30. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse


    You are very welcome. Indeed, my comment had two points: One was to indicate that one should not presume all ranchers are men, and the other was to assist you in being factually correct.

    There actually is a third. She is a WY resident (author and photographer) who operates her own wolf information website, which I have not visited until today. It appears to be a little right of center, but not much.

  31. Mike Avatar

    Cat looks to be earning a living off of the death of wolves. She was one of the original litigants who sued to stop the rockies wolf reintroduction.

    What an embarrassment. Seems she doesn’t like anything she can’t control.

    Most people go to therapy for that. The ones that don’t get their rocks off killing this “enemy”.

    Eventually, the human race will evolve beyond these pathetic levels.

  32. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse


    ++I have never heard anyone complain about ravens killing livestock or causing that kind of damage.++

    Apparently it does happen. A quick Google search on the topic reveals it is an expanding problem in the UK, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, in Sweden. Apparently, we are not immunine from the phenomenon in the US, either.

    It is a learned behavior, by these very smart birds, that stems from other food source scarcity. Lambs, apparently and as one might expect, are a prime choice. So it seems the Urbigkit’s are being pro-active in requesting the raven control modification.

    Here is a link to a pretty good pamphlet on organic farming and predators, including practical proactive solutions to protect livestock. It only mentions ravens and wolves in passing, as it addresses the usual suspects.


  33. dewey Avatar

    Two years ago , a swarm (?) of 15,000 Blackbirds took up winter residence in the trees above Crown Hill Cemetary in Powell WY. It was phenomenal. Nobody had a clue how to get them to move on. I figured they had chosen their roost well, knowing full well the ” residents” of the cemetary would not be bothered much. After a lot of fits and starts, the cemetary has a local nusicance animal guy look into ways and means to get them gone. He did a LOT of research , and the best he could come up with was deploying a squad of dusk to dawn shotgunners for an extended period of time.At least 10 days of nonstop gunnery would be required to induce the Blackbird to relocate. Which of course would only move the problem somehwere else, maybe a nearby grove surrounded by the living, not the dead. The solution may have created a greater problem , had it been employed

    I do not recall how this blizzard of blackbirds situation was resolved in Powell WY. A few years ago, the small city of Riverton WY got overrun with Crows, and the solution adopted was to tag team them with police officers using shotguns at all hours. It didn;t work too well, either.

    Myself I have about 30 Ravens and an equal number of Crows that frequent my part of town in Cody WY. My remedy , which isn’t, involves a slingshot and a basket of black walnuts from a tree down the street. It does nothing to run off the Corvids, but it’s fun to try hitting them with a projectile walnut on the wing. They often roost single file on the long apex ridge of the Methodist Church down the block, so even God doesn’t know what do with them…

    My retired ecologist friend says that Corvids and other dark complected birds are very much opportunistic. They move in where other birds have left, or simply drive them off. We have Canadian Geese staying here yearround, alongside Robins and such that never used to winter over. And surprisingly , two flocks of Turkey Vultures have taken up summer residence in neighborhood trees from Palm Sunday till Columbus Day every year. THOSE I enjoy and encourage. I pick up their shed tail feathers, clean them , and use them to make quill pens to give to their human counterparts: Lawyers and Bankers and such. So I consider the vultures to be a valuable renewable resource. Besides , they do necessary sanitation work for free. I have nothing against Ravens , in fact envy them. Crows are obnoxious for noise , but not really harmful. I have long advocated that The Magpie be christened the Wyoming State Bird, because two other states also use the Western Meadowlark already , and the Magpie is much more reflective of Wyoming values, custom and culture. It’s a scavenger.

    Ralph is mostly right. These birds colelctively are the intellectual equal of most humans. And I always take anything Cat Urbigkit profuses with a 25-lb chunk of salt….

  34. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    Cat Urbigkit recently authored a book about the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction. I have not read it, and I won’t, but as mentioned in a previous post she did file a lawsuit to stop the reintroduction, but not because of her fear of the wolves killing her sheep……rather she didn’t want the jumbo Canadian wolves wiping out the highly secretive, endangered, smaller native population of wolves sneaking around the backcountry of Yellowstone. In short….she’s full of crap. Just your typical whiny ass rancher.

  35. gline Avatar

    I like your positive attitude about the future, Mike. Much appreciated.:)

  36. JB Avatar

    “Lambs, apparently and as one might expect, are a prime choice.”

    I got a chuckle out of this statement. A friend who studies coyotes is fond of saying: “Sheep are exceptionally good at one thing: dying.”

  37. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff N.

    Yes, Cat U was one of those who loved the “native” wolves that no one ever saw and did so well eating nothing at all.

  38. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    My father and his brothers herded my great-grandfather’s sheep, down in Utah (Idaho being up).

    He enjoyed it because he was young enough not to have to do much of the work.

    His favorite story was when he and his brother get fed up with two troublesome rams. They kicked them in their rumps and the stupid creatures jumped into the Blacksmith Fork River. Their wool got wet and they sank to the bottom.

  39. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    I should be ashamed of this visualization, but it is early in the year, so there is hopefully time for redemption. The bird problem got me thinking about Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

    Maybe the stage is set for a remake. Instead of a small community in Northern CA, I should think Wyoming would do, with the larger and smarter ravens, instead of blackbirds. And a new star, local gal, sheep rancher at that, in place of Tippi Hedron. Anybody want to write the screen play?

  40. Cindy Avatar

    Oh my gosh this is unbelievable to me. Now that they can’t shot wolves hanging around the elk feed grounds like poor Limpy and his family, they’re going after Ravens! You could substitute the California beach town with say, Cora, Big Piney or even better LaBarge!

  41. JB Avatar

    “Their wool got wet and they sank to the bottom.”

    Good riddance! 😉


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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