Crows in flight. Before they took to the air, they were calling to one another and hanging out in pairs in bare trees. Location: Fairfax. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
The crow population is growing in the region. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond (file photo)
The crow population is growing in the region. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond (file photo)

A city animal control officer rescued an injured crow Thursday afternoon after it got tangled in a piece of string and stuck in a tree 40 feet off the ground in West Berkeley.

Workers in an office building called the city Thursday at roughly 2:10 p.m. after noticing the bird struggling but unable to take flight, said John Kindle, an animal control officer for the city.

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene, at 700 Heinz St., along with Kindle, to assess the situation.

When Kindle arrived, he used binoculars to take a closer look. He saw the crow high up in the tree with what appeared to be string tied to a branch and wrapped around one of its claws.

“It was kind of trying to free itself,” said Kindle. “It was struggling to try to fly up, then it would appear to get tired and hang upside down.”

The plight of the trapped bird and the sight of the crow dangling upside down from one claw drew many onlookers. He said there were other crows nearby, but Kindle was unable to tell whether they were trying to help free the caught bird, or do something else.

Authorities considered the possibility of using a fire truck ladder to reach the crow, but ultimately decided it would be too risky and might not work for other reasons.

A tenant at 700 Heinz alerted authorities about the injured bird. Image: Google Maps
A tenant at 700 Heinz alerted authorities about the injured bird. Image: Google Maps

An animal shelter employee got in touch with the city’s Public Works department, which dispatched an electrician in a “cherry picker” truck with a mounted basket on the end of a long maneuverable arm.

Kindle was outfitted with a hard hat and safety harness, then got into the basket with several tools: a 6-foot-deep net — which he calls his “chihuahua net” — a pair of snake tongs, and some branch loppers. He also donned a cardboard cat carrier fitted with straps that allow him to wear the carrier like a backpack.

Once in the basket, Kindle was raised into the air with his equipment. The truck driver had parked so that Kindle was in relatively close proximity to the bird, but Kindle relayed down more detailed instructions from the air to get even closer.

“It was lucky, too, because the truck was probably at its maximum reaching power,” he said.

From his new vantage point, Kindle was able to see clearly the string or ribbon, possibly from a balloon, that was keeping the bird tethered to the tree. He used loppers to remove one branch to get access to the crow, then cut the branch the crow was stuck on to get it into the net.

A tenant in this building, at 700 Heinz, alerted authorities about the trapped crow. Image: Wareham Development
A tenant in this building, at 700 Heinz, alerted authorities about the trapped crow. Image: Wareham Development

The bird didn’t put up much of a fight during the rescue.

“Certain animals seem to know you’re trying to help them. I’ve never been sprayed by a skunk that I was rescuing,” he said. “But the crow also could have just been tired from struggling.”

Once down on the ground, Berkeley animal shelter staff removed the string, which had not only tied the bird to the tree, but also had been keeping one of its claws closed, said Kindle. From the looks of it, the bird seemed to have a strain rather than a break, though there wasn’t an expert on scene to give an official determination.

Shelter staff arranged to take the injured animal for assessment and treatment at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. But city staffers were not available to give the crow a ride, and no one from the museum could come pick it up. So the shelter’s volunteer coordinator sent out an email blast to all of its helpers to find someone who could transport the animal.

“Within half an hour we had the bird on its way to the hospital at the wildlife museum,” said Kate O’Connor, shelter director.

Kindle said it was probably the first crow he’s rescued during his 13 years on the job in Berkeley, and also the first time he’s been up in a cherry picker. Though he’s “not a roller coaster person,” he added, he didn’t mind the ride.

“I’m there to do a job. I’m more afraid to do a snake call than going up in the air to do that,” Kindle said. “It was a nice view.”

Update, 2:10 p.m.: Lindsay spokeswoman Rachel Simmons told Berkeleyside that, upon examination, staff at the museum found the crow to have a broken knee and nerve damage, which made the bird unable to stand. The animal was euthanized Thursday night.

Counting crows: Why are there so many in Berkeley? (03.28.14)
Darlings not Draculas: The bats that live in Berkeley (12.23.13)
In a Berkeley park a bluebird displays unusual behavior
Lynxes of the bird world: Cooper’s hawks nest in Berkeley (04.18.13)
The mystery and thrill: Shorebirds enjoy winter in Berkeley (03.21.13)
Sitting on the dock of the bay: Birds throng Berkeley pier 02.28.13)
Rare bluebird sightings bring happiness in a Berkeley park (08.07.12)
In Tilden Park’s Jewel Lake: Spotting a rare river otter (04.05.12)
Up close with Berkeley’s wildlife at Tilden Regional Park (03.06.12)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...