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Sunday, October 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Killing raven nets Alaska man $1,125 fine

Raven. (The Spokesman-Review)
Raven. (The Spokesman-Review)

PROTECTED SPECIES -- In the past two years, we've seen fines of $400 for chasing and grizzly bear in a pickup in Montana and $100 for chasing and killing a wolf in Whitman County (see story).

In Alaska, a Fairbanks man was fined $1,125 Wednesday after pleading guilty in Fairbanks federal court to shooting and killing a raven at a trailer park last year.

Here's the story from the Fairbanks News-Miner:

Jerry L. Himebauch, 60, was charged with the unlawful taking of a migratory bird after an investigation by the Fairbanks office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 Ravens are on the list of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and it is a federal crime to kill them.

A total of 25 dead ravens were discovered in during a five-month period, but Himebauch was only charged with the death of one raven because the evidence was strongest for that killing, according to Special Agent Ryan Cote.

Cote said he started working the case in late 2014 after someone brought him the bodies of several dead ravens they found at the south Fairbanks trailer park. Cote documented the incident and drove through the neighborhood but didn’t think much of it until an injured raven was reported several days later. He captured the bird but it had to be euthanized because of the severity of its injuries.

It was when Cote got another report of a dead raven about a week later that he started to become concerned.

“When this number (of dead birds) becomes five or six, then it takes a little bit more attention,” Cote said. “I began working the case, and I felt like I was working a homicide case. We used to joke that we had a serial killer out there,” Cote said.

Cote, a former Army Criminal Investigative Division agent, canvassed the neighborhood and asked people to call him if they saw anything.

“During the course of my investigation I found that a lot of people were actually on the ravens’ side. As I did canvas interviews they were like, ‘Oh my goodness, why would someone do that? I like ravens!’” Cote said.

Ravens are ubiquitous in Alaska and play large roles in Alaska Native lore. Ravens and other corvids such as magpies, crows and jays have a wide range of vocalizations and are thought to be as intelligent as chimpanzees and gorillas, according to National Geographic. Many people consider it bad luck to kill a raven. 

Cote set up surveillance cameras after determining the raven shootings were “pretty much isolated to this one community.” He was able to establish a suspect after viewing footage was taken at a Lakeview Drive address two days before a dead raven was found in the home’s side yard.

The footage showed a white pickup drive slowly up the road, stop at the base of the home’s driveway and drive off again after a gunshot is heard. 

Cote found the same truck parked at Himebauch’s Lakeview Terrace Drive mobile home a day later and went undercover to speak to him.

While discussing the ravens in the area, Himebauch pointed in the general direction of Lakeview Drive and said, “You can go around that end and you can usually pick off a couple of them a day,” according to a probable cause statement prepared by Cote.

Himebauch also said the raven population should be thinned and said “You eventually just get so damn many of them they’re just like the seagulls. God there’s a lot of them bastards,” according to the statement.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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