Cordova Chronicles: Ravens discover Costco specials

Ravens are a wily sort and have figured out where to get the best meals in Anchorage. Photo courtesy of Canva

Spring is in the air, and along with migratory birds returning, the AMHS ferry Aurora is back for a full schedule of runs to Whittier.

Many Cordovans are gearing up for trips to Anchorage, and of course that includes obligatory stops at Costco to load up every available inch of vehicle space before returning.

Ah, Anchorage.

It is safe to say that crime rates are considerably higher in Alaska’s biggest city, as are the stress levels, after being accustomed to living in our friendly little community.

So be advised, and not surprised, that larceny rates are rising in Anchorage, especially at favorite big box stores, with an unlikely culprit the perp.

Recently the Anchorage Daily News ran a feature about ravens stealing groceries in the Costco parking lot.

In broad daylight, with numerous witnesses and no remorse, these clever bandits are having a field day.

They brazenly operate with considerable guile. And seem to zero in on costly items (no pun intended).

According to the ADN article, one Anchorage couple made it all the way home from the South Anchorage Costco before realizing they had been robbed.

“We had bought a four-pack of filet mignon steak,” said Marnie Jones.

Her husband had turned his back to load groceries, into their car, and the pack had slipped onto the ground. When she got home, one steak was missing.

“Oh my God, after I picked up the pack, I had seen a raven in the parking lot with a steak in his mouth.”

With such a mouthful, the clever thief was not even attempting to make that memorable cry from Edgar Allan Poe’s masterpiece that included “Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’”

In fact, it was probably thinking, “Yummy, filet mignon, forever more.”

Another shopper related a similar incident, but had passed it off as a “once in a lifetime kind of thing.”

Guess what, the first time she lost an entire pack of short ribs; the next time it was pork chops. What she muttered after the second theft was likely unfit for a family newspaper.

Ravens are famous for their shrewd social behavior. Another victim recounted how one perched on the bed of a nearby pickup and kept squawking loudly to distract him, while his partner swooped in to try to grab a bag of little melons in a mesh bag atop his shopping cart.

“They know what they’re doing; it’s not their first time,” said Matt Lewallen. “They’re very fat so I think they’ve got a whole system there.”

And appear to be developing a rather selective palate.

Rick Sinnott, a former Anchorage area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said hundreds of ravens fly to Anchorage from all over the state in the winter for food. In the past, he estimated the city’s population around a couple thousand, but felt as spring comes, most of them leave.

However, Sinnott, unlike non-biologist shoppers, displayed a sense of humor when admiring their selectivity.

“They’re not starving to death,” he said. “Ravens do very well in this city, but they much prefer – I would guess if I was thinking like a raven – a package of short ribs from Costco over a half of a hamburger bun from McDonald’s.”

A Dimond Costco manager declined to comment on the parking lot raven theft issue.

So.

When you’re stocking up at Costco, be sure to bring a strong-armed partner, not to help load your truck, but to wave a broom frantically at bandits wearing black masks.

Or plan on coming up short on short ribs when you get back to Cordova.

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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at shorn@gci.net.