BALTIMORE -- If you've been lucky enough to catch a Baltimore Ravens game at M&T Bank Stadium, you might have met two very special, very real Ravens - the mascots Rise and Conquer.
When they're not cheering on Lamar Jackson and Co. or making other special appearances, Rise and Conquer reside at the Maryland Zoo in Druid Hill Park.
But you might not have seen them recently. In fact, the formidable ravens haven't made an appearance outside of the zoo since October 2021. It's all to protect them from the highly contagious avian flu.
WJZ's Alexus Davila went to the zoo Friday to meet with area manager Jenny Egan, who introduced us to the birds.
Rise and Conquer are brothers who were born in 2009 in Alabama, and moved to the zoo in the same year. These Ravens are African, as ownership of common ravens is prohibited by law.
While they might not be seen as much, Rise and Conquer are training and staying busy, akin to their athletic coworkers in the offseason, Egan said.
Avian flu is commonly spread by wild birds through their saliva, mucous and feces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While some bird species might not get sick as a result of these naturally occurring viruses, the CDC states, they can cause serious illness and death when it comes to other species.
Last week,after the virus was detected at a Western Maryland farm.
The Maryland Zooand moved some birds indoors earlier this year in an effort to head off the flu. No cases have been reported from the zoo.
Egan said the spread of the virus at the zoo could have a grim impact.
"It would be very, very bad, she said. "We obviously want to keep our animals really safe. So that's why we're taking all these precautions. But if the bird flu were to come it would really impact the animals a lot. It can be fatal to birds, so it's really important that we keep them as safe as possible."
The number one question they get, Egan said, is when the threat of flu will be over, or when the birds can travel again.
"And we don't know," Egan said. "And that is because it might just be our new normal, kind of like COVID-19. This has become our new normal. It's the same with avian influenza. It's a virus and it's unpredictable."
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