Raven Baiting


My sweet heart Kita.

Ravens are beautiful birds and I love to watch them fly. The piglets and chickens do not. For them the big black birds are a threat. This morning Kita was doing something rather interesting. I’m not sure how much of it was on purpose or how much she was simply taking advantage of the situation.

Kita took some meat that I gave her up to the corner of the south home field above the sow garden level. Instead of eating it all she left a little as well as bloody snow behind. She then moved off a distance and settled down to watch the spot. Three ravens came by and roosted in a big maple tree along the stone wall bordering the field. They were eyeing Kita’s treat.

Realize that when the dogs hold still they vanish into the landscape looking just like one more rock or bump in the snow. Their markings are very effective camouflage at breaking up their outlines. After a while the falling snow actually had covered her unmoving form with about 1/4″. Bird brains are specialized at detecting movement so the motionlessness of the dogs makes it even more pronounced for the ravens – to them Kita vanished.

Holly had warned me about the ravens and I had not realized that Kita was on top of the situation so I went out to scare the birds off. I was worried about them picking off piglets or chickens. After I got out back one of the ravens swooped down toward the snow – all of a sudden I saw Kita rush forward in a flurry of snow and motion. She leaped and missed the raven, but not by much. After that all three big black birds left with raucous caws looking for a safer place to hunt without being hunted. Kita’s job was done for the moment and she curled up in a ball on the hill where she could see everything.

I later went up and saw the trap she had set for them. What makes this so interesting is that her using bait is a bit more advanced of a hunting technique than I had anticipated a dog would use. Was it accidental and if so why was she crouched in hunting pose the whole time she was waiting. I’ve seen the dogs use complex team work to hunt small game in the fields but she was working alone and using bait to draw in her arial prey within striking distance. I wonder if wild canids use this technique.

So now the questions are: Will Kita use the trap again and will the ravens fall for the same trick twice?

13°F/-4°F, 3″ Light snow flurries, Overcast

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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20 Responses to Raven Baiting

  1. Lynn Bartlett says:

    What a neat story! I had to read this one to our boys!

  2. PV says:

    My God Walter you have such beautiful dogs!!!!!

  3. pablo says:

    Is this kind of behavior documented in canines? This seems pretty sophisticated for a dog. Maybe you’ve discovered something new.

  4. threecollie says:

    Dogs are so much smarter than they are generally given credit for being. After a decade of herding cows and sheep with working border collies, I know that mine know much more about reading and handling stock than I ever will.
    A question about the ravens. Have they been residents of your area for a long time, or are they new arrivals? We just saw the first ones ever here at the farm and I am hoping they are just passing through.

  5. ThreeCollie, you are right. They can be very intelligent. I think that some are as intelligent as your average person or beyond. It is not the same intelligence. They are not strong in math but they have their own ways of thinking and learning.

    On the ravens, they are long time residents of our valley and have probably always been here, certainly much longer than I. Generally the dogs track the ravens from the ground and that keeps them from landing. This was the first time I saw Kita appearing to purposefully draw them in with the goal of killing them. She is full of surprises. Her sister and grandfather are also super intelligent so it should not surprise me too much that they do something new and unusual.

  6. Leslie says:

    Great photograph of a beautiful dog!

    That is very interesting hunting behavior. Cunning.

  7. Yes, I believe this to be a canine behavior for those dogs well developed (and not dumbed down by over breeding). We have coyotes down here and they are well adept at strategic hunting – hence our ongoing battle with them – they use one of the pack as a distractionary method while the remaining pack is working the kill.

    wonderful story! Beautiful dog – love the tickling of the pigs!!

    The Jacobs

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hey wow! I want a puppy from that line!

  9. Unfortunately Kita is a terminal dam – she was spayed by the family who had her for nine months before she returned to us. It is a crying shame that they would spay such a beautiful, intelligent dog but not give her rabies vaccination, etc. Very strange priorities. Spaying costs ten times as much as vaccinations and is not nearly as important as protection from disease.

    However, her sister Kia does have a litter every few years so every once in a while there is a litter available. There is a waiting list so if you are serious, let me know and I’ll put your name on it but it will be quite a while.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Walter, Your dogs are Wonderful! The old expression, “A dog is Man’s best friend.” is not a fad, but a statement of fact, time tested.

    Dogs have souls, and therefor have some reasoning, but with another blessing attached. They remain innocent in their behavior, only serving for the good, not the bad.

    Dogs, if you quietly moniter their behavior, can clue a person into Earthly events which occur, because the dogs are in “tune” with nature’s callings. Human’s minds, are just plain too busy (LOL) to pay attention, like the dog’s awareness.

    A dog’s motto, should have been the “Boy Scout” oath and promise..

    I Love Your dog’s photos..

  11. The answer to my questions at the end is Yes and Yes. Perhaps it was a different raven than the first time…

  12. And again, twice more we have seen Kita raven baiting. So it is definitely not a chance behavior.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Nice little story, however Ravens are much to smart for that. They are incredibly intelligent birds, superior by far.

  14. Jerry says:

    Brilliant. I just love this blog and what it seems like you all have built there.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Maybe your dog was just playing with the ravens,there are many documented case of ravens and wolfs or coyotes playing with each other as well as helping each other hunt and spot carrion when hunting is lean. Animals are a lot more intelgent than most people assume them to be.

  16. Hmm… Just play. Yes, I know of how ravens and wolves work together but in this case the ravens were poaching. Explain play to the raven permanently missing a section of one wing, the raven that got away, and the others that were dinner. Kita is very playful… but she doesn't tolerate anyone messing with her livestock. No doubt about her intelligence.

  17. Interesting post on dogs and ravens…
    I have 5 dogs and also chickens and ducks and sometimes baby pigs and goats and lambs and and and. The ravens sit on the top of the electricity post and watch and wait for an opportunity to sweep down. The dogs hunt the skies. I have encouraged them to do so, not taught them, for I believe the behaviour was already there. They will run for a long distance chasing a raven in flight. When the ravens come into the barn yard, the dogs immediately go into stealth mode and wait. They have not caught one yet, but like Kia, almost. I will send you a photo if I catch them catching them.

  18. Rebecca says:

    My family owned a rescued Rottweiler named Chief. He was a wonderful dog who let us kids ride him like a motorcycle and put bonnets on him. However, he was a meticulous and careful predator.
    We noticed one year when we took him camping that he was spreading his kibble around his dish. At home he would gobble all his food down before it had a chance to bounce out of the bowl, so to see him leave anything behind was strange. One morning we discovered the cause. He was waiting for House Sparrows to come in and start pecking at the food. He would sit completely still and watch them peck until they would hop over to a piece of kibble near him. He would lunge and, several times, managed to catch one of the little birds on the wing. After we took him home, this food-wasting stopped. Several years later we took him camping one last time, and he did it again! We might be reading too much into it, but Kita’s behavior sounds very similar to Chief’s.

    • I think you have pegged it. He’s baiting his trap. Our dogs catch birds. Even when we have a dog on a line. The line restricts their range but they still manage it. I’ve seen them do it sometimes. They hold still and vanish into the landscape – birds eyes are designed to detect movement and the dog’s irregularly colored fur probably helps. Then when a bird flies near the dog snakes out its head fast, snapping closed the trap. They are amazingly fast. This also makes them good at catching thrown treats. Some of our dogs have often snapped three treats from a single throw – that’s blurring. I bet your boy Chief was trapping and I can well imagine him having the speed to make good.

  19. Yesterday I saw four of our dogs working aerial prey. It was a huge turkey. Turkey are not very good fliers and the dogs had formed a triangle such that the bird could not land and had to maintain altitude in the center of the dogs. A fourth dog stayed directly under the big tom encouraging it to stay aloft, or offering an alternative of teeth. This cooperative hunting which involves herding is much more common than the baited trap Kita was doing in the story above and which I’ve since seen her and other dogs use for both ravens and other prey.

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