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Crafty crow captures gold on Oak Hills golf course

Frank Landstrom stood with a 6-iron, preparing to make an approach shot onto the 12th green at the Oak Hills golf course. Deep in concentration, the avid golfer didn't notice the thievery taking place nearby on his motorized cart.

When he looked up, a crow had taken flight with his gold bracelet.

The 69-year-old Landstrom, club still in hand, gave chase down the fairway. Despite his swift reaction, the pursuit ended quickly.

The culprit had flown over a line of trees and disappeared.

Landstrom and his playing partners searched the long grass under the trees for 15 minutes to no avail. The bird had successfully swiped the $450, 14 karat bracelet.

"I have to give the bird credit. It had very good taste," said Landstrom, who filed a report of the Oct. 16 incident with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday.

The Dunedin man said he reported the theft as a last resort, since no one had returned the bracelet to the course's pro shop.

Landstrom put the bracelet on the tray in the cart at the start of his round. He usually puts his rings, watch and bracelet inside his golf bag and doesn't know why he changed the routine.

Landstrom saw the black bird on the cart but didn't realize what it was doing until it flew away. At that point, he saw that the bird had a shiny object in its beak.

Landstrom, who plays golf twice a week, remembers squirrels and other small animals grabbing for food stored in the carts, but he had never seen anything like a bird flying off with jewelry.

The situation is plausible, if not common, said Steve Fickett, former president of the Hernando Audubon Society.

Shiny and flashy objects attract members of the crow family, which are generally smarter than many of their feathered counterparts, he said.

"They're attracted. They're smart, and they can definitely fly with that much weight," he said.

The offending crow might have used the bracelet to help reinforce its nest. Fickett has seen nests filled with all types of strange objects, including barbed wire and ladies' undergarments. He once found a small rake from a golf course sand trap in an eagle's nest.

Given that nesting season doesn't begin until spring, the crow probably took the bracelet for aesthetic reasons, Fickett said.

"A $450 gold bracelet looks awfully good to a crow," he said.

Many birds call the Oak Hills course home. A fox occasionally steals apples from golfers who have their concentration focused on a smooth follow-through, employees said.

But they were amazed to hear about the outlaw crow.

"Never heard of it. Can't even picture it. Smart crow," said cart supervisor Bryan Bittker, who has worked for six years at Oak Hills, at Northcliffe and Deltona boulevards.

The chances of finding the bracelet are slim, Bittker said.

"The bird probably dropped it somewhere out there," he said. "Maybe an honest person who finds it will realize it's the "crow' bracelet and return it."

Groundskeepers have probably already inadvertently run over the bracelet with their lawn mowers, Landstrom said. He doesn't expect to ever see the gift his wife gave him in 1985.

"I played okay for the rest of the day," Landstrom said. "But it made for one very expensive round of golf."