Saskatoon

'It just kind of acted like the family dog': Saskatoon man remembers pet crow

After Harold Pexa's uncle brought home two orphaned crows, the birds became family pets for a few months before the Pexas gave up trying to keep them.

Harold Pexa's family fed the crow, which lived indoors with them for several months

"The crow was just hanging around as though it were a dog," said Harold Pexa, whose family snapped this shot when his grandmother came to visit in the early 1960s. "It never strayed far from us." (Submitted by Harold Pexa)

When most children had dogs or cats, Harold Pexa had a pet crow.

In 1962, Pexa and his family were living at the south end of Preston Avenue, a few blocks south of what's now Market Mall.

Their uncle went hunting one day, returning with two orphaned crows unable to fly. 

Pexa and his brother adopted the one they nicknamed Peter, while his cousin took in the other crow, Paul.

"We fed it milk from an eye dropper and it seemed to like that okay," Pexa said. "I think we tried to capture some insects for it at least until it could fly."

Pexa said the bird spent several months living inside their house without any need for a cage.

"It just kind of hopped around the kitchen and it soon learned how to hop up and down the basement stairs," he said.

"Once it learned to fly it would actually just make big circles around the block, it would always come home."

"The general way they interact with people, they're extremely clever," said Harold Pexa, left. His father, Herbert Pexa and "Peter" the crow are watering the lawn outside their home on Preston Avenue South, a few blocks south of what's now Market Mall. (Submitted by Harold Pexa)

Pexa said the crow was generally well-behaved, and he does not recall it destroying drapery or furniture.

However, the corvid had one "disconcerting" habit.

"It was kind of protective, just like a dog," said Pexa. "Quite often when there were visitors in the yard it would actually kind of attack them and land on their head and peck them on the head."

That habit often discouraged potential visitors, Pexa said.

The crow "would just be really annoying," recalled Harold Pexa. "It would land on people's heads and peck them." (Submitted by Harold Pexa)

There was one neighbourhood kid in particular that got pecked on the head regularly," said Pexa. "He wasn't really too happy about it and I can't blame him."

After a few months, Pexa's uncle intervened, releasing both Peter and Paul back into the wild.

"I hope they survived," said Pexa. "Just the general way that they interact with people, they're extremely clever."

"It was just because they were attacking too many people," he said.

Jan Shadick, the founder of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, said the story is a common one.

"Everybody has somebody in their family tree that has taken in some kind of a pet animal," said Shadick, who said she's now heard of Saskatchewan people taking in raccoons, skunks, crows, ravens, owls, even fawns as pets.

"When these relationships have worked well it has been when the animal is essentially free and chooses to return," said Jan Shadick, a wildlife rehabilitator and educator in Saskatoon. (CBC)

But, Shadick said caging wild animals or failing to treat their injuries raises serious ethical questions.

"It's a frontier mentality, either you shoot them or you take them in as pets," she said. "Neither of them are really awesome options."

Shadick said despite strong emotional attachments, humans must make decisions that are in a wild animal's best interests.

"Crows have natural behaviours we are not willing to live with," said Shadick. "They make horrible pets."

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