Local citizen takes the law into her own hands and catches the prepaid card-stealing bird, but lands in trouble with the authorities herself.

With service for two train lines and one subway line, Tokyo’s Kinshicho Station has a lot of people buying tickets every day. But for the past few weeks, they’ve been joined by a crow, who, lacking any money of his own, has taken to stealing human commuters’ prepaid cards and attempting to purchase a ticket of his own.

Following the most highly publicized incident, which was captured on video, the crow once again stole a person’s card, and this time, instead of sticking it in the ticket machine, dropped it on the roof of a nearby taxi. But despite its apparent interest in vehicular transportation, the crow almost ended up going for a very long, unintentional ride.

Earlier this week, “Ticket Crow,” as he’s become known, was captured, as shown in the photos tweeted by Japanese Twitter user @yuruhuwa_kdenpa.

It wasn’t animal control officers who caught the bird, either, but a woman who lives in the area. Seeing the crow hanging around Kinshicho Station, the woman felt it would be happier in a more natural environment than downtown Tokyo, and took it upon herself to capture it. After looking after it for a month or so to make sure it was in good health, she planned to “take it into the mountains, where the air is clean, and release it,” citing Nagano Prefecture as a possible candidate for the bird’s new home.

However, while Ticket Crow ended up in a cage, the woman has ended up in trouble with the law. The woman didn’t catch the crow because her methods were more effective the station staff’s, but because the rail workers weren’t actually trying to catch it. Capturing crows without legal authorization is a violation of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Law, and carries a penalty of up to one year in prison or a fine of one million yen (US$9,300). Since no permission to capture the crow had been handed down from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the station workers had simply been chasing it off whenever it appeared.

▼ Kinshicho Station

What’s more, taking the bird into the wild may not have benefitted it at all. For one thing, it seems to have been thriving in its urban environment. The animal stockpiled bread crumbs in a bush and, displaying the powers of intelligence and memory retention that crows are known for, even seemed to remember a friendly human who often rode by the station, following him before returning to the station with a sausage in his mouth, presumably a present from the bicyclist, which the crow then left on the roof of a subway entrance to eat later.

Shoei Sugita, a biology professor at Utsunomiya University, went so far as theorize that the crow was “almost definitely” kept as a pet at some point in its life, as it appears to be especially relaxed around humans, even occasionally perching on the arm or shoulders of people in the area (he also speculates that it isn’t stealing the plastic prepaid cards because it actually wants to go anywhere, but because of crows’ inherent interest in shiny or reflective toys). Fellow professor Hiroshi Higuchi, a University of Tokyo oornithologist, also expressed doubts about Ticket Crow’s ability to find its own food in the wild, saying “If it’s used to being fed, even if you release it in a natural environment, it’ll just searching for a rural human community to live near.”

The authorities haven’t said whether they plan to press charges against the woman who caught the crow, and even if they do, the penalty is likely to be light, as she didn’t intend to cause the animal any harm, and possibly wasn’t even aware that what she was doing was illegal. As for Ticket Crow himself, his fate is now in the hands of animal control, but it sounds like he won’t be getting kicked out of Tokyo for the time being.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/FNN Prime Online, Twitter/@yuruhuwa_kdenpa via Hachima Kiko (1, 2)
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