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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

Until last week most of my interaction with Crows was limited to a few close friends with that surname.

That changed with a recent tour through the Everglades.

While taking a tram tour through the Shark Valley area of the Everglades, we were admonished to take all our belongings with us to prevent the astonishingly intelligent and notoriously mischievous crows from creating havoc.

The Everglades’ crows have learned to equate tourists with food.

And, apparently, food is easier to find by rifling through the belongings of tourists than to forage the vast wilderness that is the Everglades. The tour guide told us that crows had learned to unzip plastic coolers and to unsnap clasps on handbags.

Even handbags and purses containing no food are targets of crows. The guide told us of tourists returning to the tram to see their purses and handbags had been opened, their personal belongings, identification and credit cards strewn about the ground.

Since we had nothing to leave behind, we paid little heed to the warning.

However, upon returning to the tram about 30 minutes later, we got a better understanding of the warning. The loud cawing of a crow was clearly audible when we returned.

A quick glance to our left showed a crow standing atop a cooler, perched on the back of a bicycle. The bicycle’s owner was holding the bicycle upright, listening with an apparent mixture of amusement and trepidation.

It’s not clear whether the crow was trying to scare the human away, or if he was angry because he couldn’t open the zipper compartment atop the cooler.

Fast forward a day … my wife and I stopped along a water hole in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Since is the end of the dry season in south Florida, large water holes mean lots of wildlife.

This stop was no exception. There were 50-60 black vultures perched in the cypress trees lining the pond. There were a couple alligators lounging about, not to mention wading birds of all stripes and colors.

It was a perfect photo op. We hopped out of the car, leaving the front windows open, and began photographing the abundant wildlife. Then, I heard it … the cawing of a crow near our car. It was easy to find the vociferous villain as he worked his way steadily toward the car.

While normally an easy-going sort, the thought of sharing the small rental car with a thieving crow didn’t sound appealing. I made what I presumed to be threatening gestures toward the bird, and he hopped three feet closer to the car.

I yelled. He hopped to the branch adjacent to the open window. I walked to within five feet of him. He looked at me with disdain, as if saying, “You gotta do better than that.”

Finally, I screamed, jumped up and down and waved my cap at him menacingly. He gave a foot.

We spent the next 90 minutes doing this territorial dance.

Since the bird never reached the car and I got some excellent photos. I’m claiming victory.

In the meantime, I’m sure the crow is telling his friends about this stupid human he got to jump around like a buffoon.

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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