A very special crow shot to fame in May 2016 when he was in danger of becoming a jailbird after his cheeky antics at a murder scene. But while this lovable rogue’s flight of fancy certainly ruffled a few feathers, it was the touching story of his life that stole the attention of people around the world.
And it’s not hard to see why this story is so eye-catching. After all, can you imagine the shock of the officer who saw an essential piece of evidence literally flying away from the scene of a crime?
It all began on May 24, 2016 when the Vancouver Police Department responded to reports of a burning car. They arrived at the site – a McDonald’s parking lot – and they were met by a 28-year-old male armed with a knife. The man ended up being shot, taken into custody and treated for non-lethal knife and gunshot wounds.
These events were dramatic enough, but from that point, things got a little weird. Mike Howell, a reporter for the Vancouver Courier, described how he saw the crow fly into the area of the crime scene and, with blatant disregard for the police cordon tape, grab the knife and make off with it.
Howell couldn’t believe his eyes. “A cop chased it for about 15 to 20 feet, and then the crow dropped it and took off,” he told CBC News. “It was really strange. In my 20-plus years reporting from crime scenes, I’ve never seen anything like that crow trying to take a knife.”
But the blade wasn’t the only target of the bird’s banditry. Howell said that he also saw the bird try to “make off with a pair of eyeglasses in the lot and steal gear belonging to a television camera operator.” This feathered felon certainly seemed to have a taste for expensive items as well as crucial pieces of evidence.
The case against the bird was mounting, but who was this beaked burgler? There was one last piece to the puzzle that would help reveal the avian offender’s identity – the criminal crow had a red plastic band fitted around his leg. Only one local corvid was known to have this distinguishing feature, and it was a famous (at least in Vancouver) crow named Canuck.
So was Canuck a serial offender? Well, he was always mischievous, but he had never been a serious lawbreaker before. Still, Canuck did endure a troubled start in life, and that may even explain his recent brush with the law.
His story starts in May 2015. That was when the crow chick fell out of his nest and would have died if he wasn’t found by a passing human. “He was found and raised by my landlord’s son,” Shawn Bergman wrote on Canuck’s Facebook page – yes, he has a Facebook page, and it’s called “Canuck and I.” Bergman lives in the same residence and became something of a foster father to the corvid.
“He was no bigger than a tennis ball and was not able to fly due to his age. He more than likely would’ve died if he hadn’t been taken in, in my opinion,” wrote Bergman. It took two months to nurse him back to health, but when the young bird was well again, he was released back into the concrete jungle.
But before he was released in the summer of 2015, the chick was fitted with a red plastic band on his leg – the very feature that later implicated him in the knife-stealing incident – for identification purposes. Despite Canuck’s new-found freedom, though, he had already come to call the Vancouver neighborhood home, and he seemingly wasn’t interested in moving further afield.
On the third day after Canuck’s release, the bird wasn’t hanging around in his usual haunts. Bergman went for a walk to see if he could find the chick. “I ended up coming across him in an open grassy area looking very confused and scared,” he explained to animal enthusiast website The Dodo.
“As soon as he saw me, he ran up to me. I put up my arm and he flew up and landed on it. That was the first time I had ever walked through the neighborhood with a crow on my arm. Little did I realize it would be far from the last. Now it’s an everyday thing,” he explained.
Bergman named the bird Canuck, which is a slang term for the people of Canada. He said he wanted something “ultra-Canadian” because he wanted a name “that all Canadians could get behind. I’m proud of my country and always have been.” The crow’s carer agreed, and the name stuck.
Although it was the son of Bergman’s landlord who brought Canuck back to health, perhaps finding the confused chick was the act that cemented his friendship with Bergman. “For some reason, he just imprinted me as a best friend,” Bergman said.
And while Canuck has been around people a lot, Bergman has said that he wants the crow to experience life naturally and remain as wild as can be. The bird never strays far from his human “father,” though; Canuck sees Bergman off to the bus stop for work in the mornings and greets him when he gets back in the evening.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s crow expert, Kevin J. McGowan, explained that although crows taking shiny things is a myth, there is something that could explain Canuck’s crime-scene pilfering. “They’re very social, especially when they’re growing up, and they like to interact with other crows. When they’re hand-raised by people, they love to interact with people,” he told the Washington Post.
That might explain Canuck’s impish nature – and he has been known to steal other things from around Vancouver, too. “He’s very mischievous and a prolific thief, but he can also be quite comical,” said Bergman. “He’s not shy.”
Canuck perhaps craved some human attention in the form of a game and thought, “‘I’m going to grab that and steal it and maybe he’ll try to catch me,’” McGowan told the Washington Post. Bergman said, “I’m not thrilled that he tampered with a crime scene, but what… [can] you do? He’s a wild crow.”
Despite his naughty nature, however, Canuck definitely has a likeable character, and Bergman loves him. “I’m his best buddy, so no matter who he’s with or what he’s doing, he’ll pretty much drop everything to come see me,” he said.