“And so the Raven remains in my room
No matter how much I implore
No words can soothe him, no prayer remove him
And I must hear forevermore: “Nevermore.”
–Edgar Allan Poe
So beset, it seems, is the county of San Bernardino with ravens that local officials this week have made an appeal to the federal government that the protection extended to the birds nearly a century ago to ensure their survival be abandoned so that efforts to manage their population, particularly in the desert, can be undertaken.
In 1918, the United States Congress ratified the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which afforded protection to hundreds of avian species, including the common raven (Corvus corax).
According to San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux, “Since the middle of the 20th Century, however, their population has exploded, increasing more than 1,000 percent in the 50 years between 1966 and 2006, according to published surveys.”
Ravens are omnivorous and their presence has expanded as commercial and residential development and other human activity has grown in the high desert region, providing ready and easy access to food, water, and nesting sites.
Ravens impact a number of crops and species throughout the western states. Their destructive presence has not gone unnoticed and efforts have already begun to limit their numbers.
Ravens are a primary predator of the greater sage grouse, which is dwindling in numbers due to both the loss of habitat and predation by coyotes, bobcats, badgers, ground squirrels, falcons, hawks, eagles, magpies, crows and ravens. Magpies and ravens in particular commonly prey on Greater Sage-Grouse nests. There is concern the greater sage grouse is being driven to extinction, though the US Fish and Wildlife Service made a decision not to grant endangered species status to it in September 2015.
In January 2015, the Nevada Legislature adopted Assembly Joint Resolution No. 2, “Urging the United States Congress and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to take certain actions to reduce the impact of common ravens on the greater sage grouse population in this state.” The resolution further urged the “United States Congress to amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or take any other appropriate action to ensure that the common raven is not a protected species under that Act.”
According to Devereaux, “Locally, the ravens present a real threat to pistachio farmers as they feed on the young pistachios and they have been identified as a major factor in the decline of the desert tortoise, itself a threatened species, as vulnerable juvenile tortoises fall prey to the ravens. Efforts to control ravens have had little impact as the birds are highly intelligent and adapt quickly to circumvent control measures.”
This week, Devereaux called upon the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to stand in solidarity with the Nevada State Legislature in declaring open season on ravens.
“At this point,” asserted Devereaux, “the common raven is neither threatened nor endangered, but continues to be protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale these birds or their parts, nests, or eggs, except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to federal regulations.”
Devereaux at this week’s meeting of the board of supervisors presented a motion authorizing the board’s chairman, James Ramos, “to submit letters to the United States Congress calling for the common raven to be removed from protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service calling for further action to reduce the population of common ravens, especially in the California desert.”
The board unanimously endorsed that resolution.
The clock struck midnight and through my sleeping
I heard a tapping at my door
I looked but nothing lay in the darkness
So I turned inside once more
To my amazement there stood a raven
Whose shadow hung above my door
And through the silence I heard the one word
I shall hear forevermore
Quoth the raven: ”Nevermore.”