Counting crows: Vancouver college maps thousands of attacks
Canada Counting crows: Vancouver college maps thousands of attacks
Tool launched in response to dive-bombing birds documents 2,500 attacks since 2016
It was a crow fiercely protecting its nest â" and repeated complaints of it dive-bombing and swooping â" that prompted the idea.
âJust about every day someone would come in and say: âI got smacked in the back of the head,â or âMary got smacked in the back of the head,ââ said Jim OâLe ary, a teacher at Langara College in Vancouver, Canada.
âI was thinking to myself: I know crows are smart but weâre pretty smart too. Isnât there something that I can do about this?â
The result was CrowTrax, an online tool that since 2016 has documented about 2,500 crow attacks in the Metro Vancouver region, nearby Victoria and around the world.
You donât hear anything and just like that you get smacked in the back of the headJim O'Leary
OâLeary, who teaches a course on geographic information systems (GIS), initially envisioned the site as a way to show his students how such systems could be used to map and store spatial data.
âBut it kind of took on a life of its own. Because most people really donât care about GIS; they just care about crows,â he said.
Within hours of launching the site, reports began pouring in. About 1,000 anecdotes came in during the siteâs first year, and 1,500 the next year.
The deluge, particularly the many from across Metro Vancouver, surprised OâLeary. âI donât know if crows are more aggressive in certain spots than others. It just seemed to be something which we experience here in Vancouver quite a bit,â he said, pointing to the cityâs tall trees and concentration of rubbish bins as a possible explanation.
The site accepts reports only during the spring, or what OâLeary referred to as crow attack season â" the period of typically eight to 10 weeks each year when crows are focused on protecting their eggs or young fledglings.
âWhen it happens, thereâs a big spike,â he said. âI got like 100 reports in six hours one day.âCrow swoops into crime scene and tries to steal knife identified as evidence Read more
OâLeary, who created the site with another instructor, Rick Davidson, screens all the submissions for any obviously bogus reports, citing one that said: â A crow followed me into the bar and ran off with my girlfriend.â
The map lets users provide details of the attack and rate the birdâs aggressiveness, and see where attacks are happening so they can take steps to protect themselves. It has seemingly taken on a larger role in the cityâs psyche. âItâs become a therapy for people â¦ people just need to tell their story,â he said.
âItâs traumatic. If youâre going down the street and you see a dog and the dog is growling at you, well at least you get a bit of a warning. Maybe you can cross the street or you can steel yourself, get ready for an attack,â he explained. âBut this comes from behind, invariably. You donât hear anything and just like that you get smacked in the back of the head.â
Though heâs been swooped at a few times, OâLeary has never been attacked by crows. But after reading through the siteâs thousands of submissions, heâs gained a new respect for the birds.
â The main thing that comes across is that crows are very intelligent, they work together. Theyâre one of the few species that actually uses tools,â he said, citing examples of crows using twigs to dig into tree crevasses for ants.
Heâs also been astonished by their aggressiveness, pointing to stories of people being left with neck injuries after an attack. âThose crows, theyâve been getting away with murder for years,â he said. âThey attack pigeons, squirrels, cats and dogs.â
As a result heâs modified his own behaviour during crow attack season, wearing a hat and turning around at the first whisper of wings behind him.
âMany of the reports are the same: âThe crow attacked me from the back, hit the side of my head,ââ he said. âSome of them are kind of scary. People are saying âa whole pack of crows followed me down the block and I had to go insideâ.âTopics
- Anim als
- Animal behaviour
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