Military Research Tried to Find bin Laden as Crow Flies

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 02:00 PM

By Martin Gould

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U.S. military researchers wearing Dick Cheney masks thought they could teach wild crows to find Osama bin Laden’s hideaway. Taxpayer money was used to pay for the research in Seattle, which ended before it could ever be put to the test, the Neurophilosophy blog reports.

And despite the outlandish sound of the experiment, it actually was based on strong science, the blog says.

Two sets of researchers patrolled the University of Washington campus in Seattle. One group, wearing caveman masks, trapped, banded, and released crows. A second set, wearing Cheney masks, did not bother the birds.

After a while, the crows would attack the “cavemen” but leave the former vice president alone. “This happened regardless of the size, sex or walking style of the person wearing the mask, and even when the mask was partly hidden under a hat or worn upside down,” reports Neurophilosophy.

If a “Cheney” and a “caveman” were walking together, the crows went after only the latter “and scolded them aggressively.”

Chief researcher, wildlife biologist John Marzluff, said that even three years after all trapping had stopped, the crows still went after anyone in a caveman mask, which he said showed that the trapped birds somehow passed that information on to others in their flock.

The crows “have a long-term memory, very acute discrimination abilities, and if a group of crows knew bin Laden as an enemy, they would certainly indicate his presence when they next saw him," Marzluff said.

"One of the experimental branches of research that was used to try to find him was to have crows or ravens of the local area trained to identify his face."

The report offers no explanation as to why Cheney was chosen as the model for masks.

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