Birds of a feather feed together

Patricia MacKenzie, 70, has spent nearly every day for the past 20 years diligently feeding Whitehorse's ravens.

Patricia MacKenzie, 70, has spent nearly every day for the past 20 years diligently feeding Whitehorse’s ravens.

Whether it was near her home on Range Road or at her current spot in the Superstore parking lot, MacKenzie has always enjoyed the company of the birds, which she considers her friends.

That was until last Friday, when she says she was approached by a conservation officer who told her it was illegal to feed wild animals.

As MacKenzie tells it, the officer took pictures of her and said she could risk being taken to court if she kept it up.

She maintains that she’s done nothing wrong.

“They don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground,” she said.

In the mid-90s, MacKenzie said she was feeding ravens one day near a wooded area and accidentally attracted a nearby coyote.

She began feeding him, too, because he looked malnourished. Someone spotted and reported her, so she chose a more urban location to feed her friends.

She estimates that she goes through at least five 18-kilogram bags of dog food per month to feed the ravens, who gather 50 to 70 at a time.

The area she uses is “clean as a whistle” when they’re done eating, she says.

But MacKenzie’s feeding of the ravens may still be a concern, according to Dawn Baker, First Nation liaison conservation officer with the Department of Environment.

She said it’s not illegal to feed ravens, but causing wildlife to become a nuisance is.

“When you’re feeding ravens or any birds for that matter they can only consume so much,” she said.

“The excess is left on the ground and ravens start to cache things in pretty much any place they can find. What is left over is actually an attractant for other wildlife.”

Baker said it becomes illegal when it is noted or reported that feeding is attracting other wildlife on a continuous basis.

Under Section 93 of the Wildlife Act, those animals are defined as grizzly bears, black bears, polar bears, cougars, coyotes, foxes or wolves.

Some animals have actually been hit by cars because they were trying to access cached food, Baker said.

MacKenzie said she does it because she “gets a bang” out of feeding ravens.

“I love them,” she said.

“I keep going because they want me to. When I show up they come to me from all directions.

“The ground is completely black.”

MacKenzie said she first met one raven, who she has named Blackjack, at the Sky High Wilderness Ranch, where she once worked, over 25 years ago.

She recognizes him by how he caws to her and flaps his wings, she said.

He’ll also follow her around town while she runs her errands, she said.

“He was sitting on the handicapped parking sign at Walmart the other day and I had to tell him I couldn’t feed him or I’d get in trouble. I told him to tell the others, too.”

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