Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 9, 2013

Marta Hepler Drahos: Traverse City zoo legend left her mark

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Ace the crow, a former Clinch Park Zoo resident — and a Traverse City legend — died on Memorial Day at the ripe old age of 30.

The talkative bird was born in 1983 and soon after brought to an area rehabilitator, with foot deformities thought to have been caused by falling or being pushed from the nest.

She arrived at the zoo the following year after it became clear she would never survive in the wild.

She lived in a display near the bike path, where she laid one egg most years and became a favorite of zoo regulars.

A relative of the talking mynah bird, she startled and delighted visitors with her greetings, her raucous laugh and her cunning mimicry.

Former zookeeper Tracy Mikowski said the crow loved an audience and played to it, particularly when it included young children.

She was choosier with adults, often ignoring them or dismissing them with an imperious “goodbye.”

When the zoo closed in 2006, Mikowski took Ace home with her, where the intelligent bird became part of the family.

The crow presided over the living room and the porch, often greeting visitors to Mikowski’s dog boarding facility.

The two shared a special bond, as evidenced by Ace’s purring vocalization and whispered “Caw-Caw” in Mikowski’s ear.

Former zoo veterinarian Jerry Harrison shared joint custody of the bird and cared for her in Mikowski’s absence.

He cooked eggs for her breakfast, contributing to her healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products, including cheese, one of her favorites.

When Mikowski moved to Alaska in 2011 to take a job with an animal rescue facility, Ace moved in permanently with the Harrison family.

The bird accompanied Harrison every day to his Leelanau County clinic, where she sat in a cage with a birds-eye view of the action, or outside on the lawn. At night she accompanied him home, where she often sat contentedly, wrapped in a blanket, on willing laps.

Even before the zoo closed, the crow was starting to show her age with diminished eyesight and balance.

As arthritis set in, she was unable to perch altogether, and sat on grass or artificial turf instead.

She died peacefully, after spending her last weekend basking in the sun at her retirement home.

Far away in Haines, Alaska, where crows and ravens are everywhere, she’s always and forever with Mikowski.

And every spring, when the birds are most vocal, Mikowski will hear the echo of Ace calling.

Reach staff writer Marta Hepler Drahos at