In November, Canyonlands National Park is nearly deserted. So when we reached Big Spring Canyon Overlook, we decided to ignore the “No Parking” sign and stop to take a few quick pictures.
As I got out of the car, a common raven (Corvus corax) landed on the barrier at the end of the road. He was roughly thirty feet away, so I took a picture with my phone. When he continued to sit there, I crept around the car to get my sketchbook and cautiously opened the door.
I needn’t have been so careful. Before I could pull the book out, a second raven arrived, landing on the ground right behind me. We looked at one another for a moment, then he flew even closer, perching on the driver’s door, which Kurt had left open.
I was standing less than ten feet away, but the raven seemed totally fearless. I sketched him, convinced that this bold bird had been fed by visitors before and was expecting a handout.
But I know not to feed wild animals. It’s dangerous for them to get too comfortable around humans. I apologized for not giving him something to eat and kept drawing.
I expected the raven to fly off at any minute, so I drew as fast as I could. Five minutes became ten. Ten became fifteen. Then I noticed that the raven was cocking an eye at the front seat of the car, and I caught on.
This bird was not begging. He was scouting. He was looking into our car to see if we had left something to eat lying around.
As soon as I realized this, the first raven landed on the passenger side door (the window was rolled down). He leaned forward, scanning the interior of the car. There was no doubt about it. They were casing the joint. One bird was keeping me busy by modeling while the other looked for loot.
Fortunately, all our food was neatly packed away in bags and a cooler in the very back of the car. Apparently there wasn’t anything in the front worth stealing.
When my model began pecking at the rubber gastket on the door, I shooed him away. We got back in the car, rolling up the windows tightly, because the ravens were still hanging around. They even followed us back up the road to the Slickrock Foot trailhead and watched us closely as we got ready to go for our hike.
Both Kurt and I were astonished by this encounter, then amused. As we set off down the trail, we discussed what we would do if they boosted the car while we were gone. It seemed completely feasible that they could pick the locks and drive off with the car, and I imagine they would have, if they’d known exactly how much food we had in the back.
How do you feel about ravens? Are they smart? Devious? Clever? Annoying? Share your thoughts in the comments.