Update: Unhappy ending for crow rescued in Berkeley

Crows in flight. Before they took to the air, they were calling to one another and hanging out in pairs in bare trees. Location: Fairfax. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond

The crow population is growing in the region. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond (file photo)

A city animal control officer rescued an injured crow Thursday afternoon after it got tangled in a piece of string and stuck in a tree 40 feet off the ground in West Berkeley.

Workers in an office building called the city Thursday at roughly 2:10 p.m. after noticing the bird struggling but unable to take flight, said John Kindle, an animal control officer for the city.

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene, at 700 Heinz St., along with Kindle, to assess the situation.

When Kindle arrived, he used binoculars to take a closer look. He saw the crow high up in the tree with what appeared to be string tied to a branch and wrapped around one of its claws.

“It was kind of trying to free itself,” said Kindle. “It was struggling to try to fly up, then it would appear to get tired and hang upside down.”

The plight of the trapped bird and the sight of the crow dangling upside down from one claw drew many onlookers. He said there were other crows nearby, but Kindle was unable to tell whether they were trying to help free the caught bird, or do something else.

Authorities considered the possibility of using a fire truck ladder to reach the crow, but ultimately decided it would be too risky and might not work for other reasons.

A tenant at 700 Heinz alerted authorities about the injured bird. Image: Google Maps

A tenant at 700 Heinz alerted authorities about the injured bird. Image: Google Maps

An animal shelter employee got in touch with the city’s Public Works department, which dispatched an electrician in a “cherry picker” truck with a mounted basket on the end of a long maneuverable arm.

Kindle was outfitted with a hard hat and safety harness, then got into the basket with several tools: a 6-foot-deep net — which he calls his “chihuahua net” — a pair of snake tongs, and some branch loppers. He also donned a cardboard cat carrier fitted with straps that allow him to wear the carrier like a backpack.

Once in the basket, Kindle was raised into the air with his equipment. The truck driver had parked so that Kindle was in relatively close proximity to the bird, but Kindle relayed down more detailed instructions from the air to get even closer.

“It was lucky, too, because the truck was probably at its maximum reaching power,” he said.

From his new vantage point, Kindle was able to see clearly the string or ribbon, possibly from a balloon, that was keeping the bird tethered to the tree. He used loppers to remove one branch to get access to the crow, then cut the branch the crow was stuck on to get it into the net.

A tenant in this building, at 700 Heinz, alerted authorities about the trapped crow. Image: Wareham Development

A tenant in this building, at 700 Heinz, alerted authorities about the trapped crow. Image: Wareham Development

The bird didn’t put up much of a fight during the rescue.

“Certain animals seem to know you’re trying to help them. I’ve never been sprayed by a skunk that I was rescuing,” he said. “But the crow also could have just been tired from struggling.”

Once down on the ground, Berkeley animal shelter staff removed the string, which had not only tied the bird to the tree, but also had been keeping one of its claws closed, said Kindle. From the looks of it, the bird seemed to have a strain rather than a break, though there wasn’t an expert on scene to give an official determination.

Shelter staff arranged to take the injured animal for assessment and treatment at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. But city staffers were not available to give the crow a ride, and no one from the museum could come pick it up. So the shelter’s volunteer coordinator sent out an email blast to all of its helpers to find someone who could transport the animal.

“Within half an hour we had the bird on its way to the hospital at the wildlife museum,” said Kate O’Connor, shelter director.

Kindle said it was probably the first crow he’s rescued during his 13 years on the job in Berkeley, and also the first time he’s been up in a cherry picker. Though he’s “not a roller coaster person,” he added, he didn’t mind the ride.

“I’m there to do a job. I’m more afraid to do a snake call than going up in the air to do that,” Kindle said. “It was a nice view.”

Update, 2:10 p.m.: Lindsay spokeswoman Rachel Simmons told Berkeleyside that, upon examination, staff at the museum found the crow to have a broken knee and nerve damage, which made the bird unable to stand. The animal was euthanized Thursday night.

Counting crows: Why are there so many in Berkeley? (03.28.14)
Darlings not Draculas: The bats that live in Berkeley (12.23.13)
In a Berkeley park a bluebird displays unusual behavior
Lynxes of the bird world: Cooper’s hawks nest in Berkeley (04.18.13)
The mystery and thrill: Shorebirds enjoy winter in Berkeley (03.21.13)
Sitting on the dock of the bay: Birds throng Berkeley pier 02.28.13)
Rare bluebird sightings bring happiness in a Berkeley park (08.07.12)
In Tilden Park’s Jewel Lake: Spotting a rare river otter (04.05.12)
Up close with Berkeley’s wildlife at Tilden Regional Park (03.06.12)

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  • princessofpriobiotics

    RIP Crow.

  • emraguso

    Seriously! Not a happy ending, unfortunately.

  • Berkeley Southside

    how many animals are killed as a result of needlessly released Balloons? aside from that, when the balloon Eventually deflates, what remains is probably in the environment for the foreseeable future. I wish parents would teach their children these facts.

  • carol

    oh. too bad.

  • ariana

    OMG! I was reading this article feeling warm and fuzzy; it’s so nice when human do nice things for animals (too often it’s other things they do)….and then the Update. Whah! what a tragic ending! I love crows, and all animals. I wish we humans too more care of how we live on this planet and had more awareness of *sharing* it with other species.
    Anyway, thanks to the humans who cared and tried in this story….

  • Tulip

    I have in the past contacted the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in similar situations and have been told that they don’t accept “common birds” (i.e. sparrows, pigeons, crows…). WILDCARE in SAN RAFAEL instead is not selective and just cares for the animal in need.

  • tulip

    Wildcare in San Rafael takes wild birds and nurses them back to health.

  • Parsley

    To clarify, WILDCARE in San Rafael takes ANY bird or other non domesticated animal and nurses them back to health. I have taken pigeons to WILDCARE. I have taken injured skunks. At the same time they treat foxes, owls, hawks etc. They are a great resource and just amazing when you are at a loss as to what to do with an injured non domesticated animal that you may have found.

  • guest

    Why on earth would the Fire Department show up with a ladder truck for an animal control call for a bird?

    Is Berkeley’s fire department really that overstaffed?!?

  • emraguso

    I think they showed up because they were dispatched to the call. When they got on scene to see what the actual situation was, they realized there was a better alternative — that’s my understanding.

  • Pwll

    I would think that euthanizing this crow was not necessary. Someone could have taken it in and cared for it. Crows have the intelligence of a 7 year old. They have been made pets before. Just sad.

  • Adrian Reynolds

    Crows are a nuisance, period…I just can’t muster any sympathy here. When I get woken up at 6 a.m. daily by squawking crows, the animal lover in me disappears.

  • Biker 94703


  • Mbfarrel

    Just like when you see a fire truck at a supermarket, they are on call. I’ve seen them run out of Safeway halfway through check-out and depart with lights and siren. And they have ladders.

  • guest

    Why the hell would the fire department take a fire truck to Safeway? Why are they shopping for groceries when they are on the clock? Do you leave the office and shop for groceries when you’re supposed to be on the clock for your job?

  • Chris J

    JEEZIS, even the simple act of a child releasing a balloon to watch in wonder as it soars off into the sky gets turned into a cautionary tale.

    What next? A kid playing in the sprinklers on a hot, sunny day being chastised for wasting water? True, maybe, but sometimes enough is enough.

  • Chris J

    Ok. You can pay for it, then. X-rays, professional vet, recovery. I credit us as a species for going through the effort they did to rescue a simple crow but if the 2nd street fire had broken out at that moment, you can bet what the cherry picker would have needed to choose as a priority,

  • Chris J

    They come to berkeley bowl all the time–in their fire trucks, I imagine. If they got an emergency call for something, they should have their trucks with them, don’t you think?

  • Mbfarrel

    Is I understand it, they work a 4 day x 24hr shift. While you may not want them to have fresh food, they rather enjoy it. And they are on call – that’s why the truck is at the store. BTW they tend to be good cooks.