Story last updated at 12/2/2009 - 12:14 pm
FAIRBANKS - Ravens have feelings, too, at least judging from an eerie scene Nov. 17 on Minnie Street in east Fairbanks.
After two ravens roosting on top of a power transformer were electrocuted, hundreds of ravens showed up within a minute or two and started silently circling overhead and perching in nearby trees.
Rod Stephens, owner of Rod's Saw Shop across the street, saw the scene play out before his eyes after a man pulled into the shop and reported seeing sparks flying on top of the transformer.
"I walked out there and there were all these birds just circling. There were ravens in all the trees," he said. "It was weird."
Stephens estimated the number of ravens at "a couple hundred."
"It was like that movie, 'The Birds,'" he said. "I walked out and wasn't sure if they were going to start dive-bombing me."
One of the electrocuted ravens had fallen to the ground and the other was still caught in the wires and transformer, Stephens said.
Ben Brees, a computer technician at Geek City across the street from Stephens' shop, was driving to work when he saw what he described as "a vortex of ravens circling" next to the computer store.
"I could see them a half-mile away," Brees said. "It was a funnel of black birds. I pulled up to the building right as they were circling."
The birds only hung around for a few minutes before flying off, Stephens said.
"They said their respects and moved on," he said.
There were no power outages reported as a result of the birds being electrocuted, said Corinne Bradish, spokeswoman for Golden Valley Electric Association.
It's not uncommon for squirrels and birds to get electrocuted while perching on or crossing electrical wires, power poles and transformers, Bradish said. The company notifies the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service whenever ravens are killed, she said.
Travis Booms, the nongame biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks, wasn't surprised to hear ravens had been electrocuted. More ravens are probably electrocuted in Fairbanks than people think, he said.
"They're the same size as a lot of raptors that we know get electrocuted on a regular basis, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if ravens get electrocuted on a pretty regular basis," he said.
The fact that incident attracted dozens of other ravens to the scene intrigued Booms.
"I've never heard of ravens holding funerals," he said. "It wouldn't surprise me if the birds that got zapped were still alive and were acting erratically. That would attract the attention of other ravens."