Never mind bears, hikers warned to beware ravens tearing packs apart

Close-up of raven's head
(Image credit: Getty)

Hikers in Scotland don't have to worry about keeping their belongings in a bear canister, but they should keep an eye out for other creatures that could trash their belongings through either hunger or curiosity – particularly ravens.

Hiking guide Adrian Trendall, from the Isle of Skye, shared a warning about leaving items unattended after seeing the aftermath of several raven raids. Posting on a Facebook page dedicated to the Cuillin Hills, Trendall shared pictures of a backpack torn open by the birds' powerful bills.

"Bealach a Bhasteir seems to be home to a particularly switched on pair of ravens who have their pack opening skills 100% dialled in," he wrote. "It's a popular location and many people leave packs here as they go out and back to Am Basteir and Sgurr nan Gillean. On Thursday Team Munro arrived to find two packs that had succumbed to the ravens. Tissues were spread around, zips had been opened and, presumably, any food had long disappeared."

It wasn't the first time Trendall had come across bags ruined by ravens. In September he came across two packs that had been "seriously attacked", with side and hip belt pockets pecked open and zips undone. 

"It looked like the ravens had grabbed a large packet of peanuts, ditto of Jelly babies and assorted chocolate and cereal bars whose wrappers were now scattered," he wrote.

Ravens, like all corvids, are extremely intelligent, but there are some steps you can take to keep your belongings safe. Trendall recommends stashing them somewhere out of sight, stacking them one on top of the other, placing rocks on top, and trying to protect strategic areas such as pockets and fastenings.

Raven or crow?

From a distance you might find it hard to tell the difference between a raven and a crow, but once you see these beautiful birds side-by-side the difference is obvious. Ravens are much, much larger, with a wingspan up to 4ft, compared to 2.5ft for a crow.

In flight, you'll see that a raven has a more diamond-shaped tail, whereas a crow's tail is fan-shaped. The raven also has more pointed wings, with longer finger-like primaries. In profile, the raven has a more heavy-headed appearance than a crow, with a distinctive ruff of feathers on the front of its neck.

Ravens and crows also sound very different. The crow has a distinctive 'caw', while ravens usually make a grunting or 'cronking' noise, and can sound almost like a pig. They can also make a variety of interesting rattles, clicks, and other noises.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.