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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Friendly, foul-mouthed crow befriends entire Oregon elementary school before state police are called in

Cosmo the talking crow, in a hat made by Daphnie Colpron.  (Courtesy)
By Lizzy Acker Oregonian

A friendly, if somewhat foul-mouthed, crow became a temporary mascot at Allen Dale Elementary School in November when the bird took up residence at the Grants Pass school.

“This crow showed up at our school just out of the blue one morning,” said Naomi Imel, an education assistant at Allen Dale, over the phone on Thursday.

It began looking into classrooms, Imel said, and pecking on doors. At one point, it made its way into a fifth-grade classroom where it “helped itself to some snacks,” she said.

Imel said the bird wasn’t aggressive at all and seemed to love the kids.

“It landed on some people’s heads,” she said.

And, she added, it spoke. The bird could say, “What’s up?” and “I’m fine” and “a lot of swear words.”

“It was like a parrot,” Imel said. “It was the weirdest thing.”

Still, because it was a wild animal that wouldn’t leave, the school called animal control.

“It was quite the production,” Imel said. “Animal control came out and decided it was not in their jurisdiction to catch the crow.”

Then, a wildlife officer from Oregon State Police came to the scene.

“That officer was able to feed it from his hand,” Imel said. “They didn’t want to net it because if they missed, it would remember.”

According to Imel, all the grades came out to witness the attempted capture of the talkative crow.

The crow seemed to enjoy the attention, playfully chasing kids around the track, she said.

“We thought it would fly away but it didn’t,” Imel added. “The kids were like magnets.”

Ultimately, the wildlife trooper was unable to capture the crow, who spent the night of Nov. 29 outside the school.

It turns out, talking crows aren’t just something out of an Edgar Allan Poe poem. And this crow, or possibly and more in line with Poe, raven, knows at least 40 words.

“He knows a lot of words, I’m not going to lie,” said Daphnie Colpron on Thursday. “His vocabulary has expanded quite a bit in the last few weeks.”

Colpron knows a good deal about the crow, or possibly raven – who also may be female – because her mother rescued the bird about two years ago when it was a baby, bringing it home to the family’s farm in Williams from a shelter and naming it “Cosmo.”

The family has dogs, including a mastiff named “Tonka Truck,” Colpron said.

“Cosmo will say, ‘Tonka, you come outside,’ or he’ll say, ‘Dogs out,’ ” she said.

“Sometimes he does use profanity,” Colpron added.

Colpron’s mom, JaNeal Shattuck, considers Cosmo part of the family.

In the mornings, she said, “He will go right to my bedroom window and say, ‘Mom wake up, wake up!’ ”

There is a daycare in the neighborhood and Cosmo loves kids, Colpron said.

“As soon as he found out what time the kids got there,” she said, “he’d go over there and hang out.”

Shattuck is a rescuer of animals but Cosmo is extra special to her. She considers him a free bird, but also has a close personal attachment to him and so, when he disappeared after she came back from an out-of-town Thanksgiving, “I was devastated,” she said. “He’s like a person, not a bird.”

At first, Shattuck was concerned that Cosmo had been killed. It seems that while some neighbors loved Cosmo as much as Shattuck and Colpron, not everyone was quite as thrilled with the talking, person-loving bird.

Cosmo isn’t aggressive, everyone involved with him agreed, but, said Colpron, “If people are scared of Cosmo, he finds that a little funny.”

“He will get obnoxious,” she added, saying he likes to tease people.

While the family was gone for Thanksgiving, they said a neighbor captured the bird and took him to a local animal sanctuary. The sanctuary, not realizing he was habituated to humans, released him, likely in Grants Pass.

Once he was out, Shattuck said, he started looking for home, causing quite the stir in town.

“Cosmo would sit on top of Planet Fitness, talking to people who were going in,” Shattuck said. “He was looking for me.”

Shattuck posted on Facebook about the lost bird, hoping to find him.

After following a family friend in a truck Shattuck and Colpron think he recognized, Cosmo ended up at Allen Dale.

“He went to the only kid I know in Allen Dale and knocked on the door,” Shattuck said. “When he was in the school he was jumping around saying, ‘It’s okay! I’m fine!’ ”

That was the fifth-grade classroom where Cosmo found snacks.

That night, when the kid relayed the story of the talking crow to his father, the father called Shattuck. Colpron went the next day to collect Cosmo.

“It took about 45 minutes of me offering sardines,” she said.

She petted the bird and waited until his eyes were closed and then grabbed him.

Colpron thinks he’s happy to be home. He hasn’t been back to visit the neighbors who captured him.

But while the story of Cosmo the talking crow or raven and his or her family is sweet, Oregon State Police would rather you don’t take the wrong inspiration from it.

“We don’t want people making pets out of wild animals,” said OSP spokesperson Stephanie Bigman. “If they had contained this bird, it would have been a wildlife offense.”

For now though, Cosmo is free and back home, and the children of Allen Dale have a story to tell their cousins this holiday season that no one is going to believe.