Wild turkeys are the only native North American species to be domesticated (probably not their proudest moment). I want to share a few stories of my experience with them at both sanctuaries. These moments encapsulate the wildness of these animals and the cruelty of humans as much as they do the mystery of turkeys and the compassion of people. Wild turkeys don't like recipes, so look for more in tomorrow's edition.
Finding a Safe Spot
We do not know from where she came, this wild turkey hen. She is not with her clan. Instead, she flies, all muscle and pure grit, into the domestic chicken and turkey enclosure. The toms display, she ignores. At the time, we assume she is looking for comfort. A month passes and we see the reason why she has chosen the predator proof pasture. Four healthy poults. She flies over, they are stuck. She flies back, encourages them to follow. They cry their frustration. Finally they find a space to fit through. Off they go.
Ruffled Feathers and Buckshot
She sat stunned along the road. It looked as if she had been caught in the force of speeding cars. Pulling over, a towel is draped over her huddled form. She does not resist. We give her time, antibiotics, pain medications. She does not get better. We have a vet look at her. She finds buckshot embedded in her small body, infection gone systemic, ravaging her organs. No one talks much about these hunted animals, the ones who "get away". Who take weeks to die, in prolonged agony and suffering. We give her the only comfort we can - a peaceful death.
The Wretched Fence
Eight turkey poults wander up and down the sanctuary fence, crying angry and annoyed. Scared to push them closer to the road, time is spent reading a book while the turkey babies figure out this novel device. Finally - oh thank goodness finally - one looks up instead of straight at their moms. She cocks her head to the side, crouches low, and in a gust leaps over the fence. One by one they figure it out, except for two. Book closed, time now to watch these amusing babies learn something about their world. At the same time, the two poults pace five feet back, run forward, and leap on the fence. But! One cannot fairly share the same moment in space and time with another, so the two jesters fall tail feathers over soft heads onto the ground. Mom runs over, checks in on both, chastises them for their silliness, and wanders off. The two poults dust themselves off. Turkeys: 6 Fence: 2.
The Cry Louder Than The Shot
Feeding the potbellied pigs, their demands for attention damaging eardrums, the shot might have gone unnoticed. But it was not one, "clean" shot. It was three. The echo reverberated. The cry came next. It overshadowed the pigs. It's ache and tenor pierced the shotgun's power. The turkey screamed, struggling to stand up. A final shot ended his life. The other turkeys did not leave him. Surrounding their fallen brethren, they trilled and gobbled their anger and fear. Only when the one with the gun came close did they fly frantically away. It was Thanksgiving.
The Mighty Quinn
What an honor, naming this majestic bird. As a failed member of the Wildlife Rehabilitation School, Quinn made it known to all that he was still cooler than you. He took on the big toms. He wooed the ladies. He convinced his partner in crime, Maya, to roost up in trees, perch on buildings, and wander into the unsafe zone. Quinn was a revolutionary. Should have been named Che. Soon another turkey joined him, then another. Even the chickens were ready for a coup. The toms were ready for him to go, the roosters annoyed at his gumption. Caregivers stomped and waved arms wildly, demanding he stop trilling 25' off the ground. Like a good revolutionary, he flipped them the bird and went about his business. Wild animals are wild animals. Lesson learned. Quinn was run out of town, the dictators had won! He moved to a new city, where he could be safely fenced in but not cooped up, where he could roost in trees without fear of being shot out of one. Where he could make speeches to people and not worry they might kill him for speaking the truth. Plus he got a girlfriend.
Previous turkey entries