This post is a tribute to the wild turkeys who walk among us. Every year, Hugh and I Adopt a Turkey from Farm Sanctuary. And every year, I try to somehow commemorate the awesomeness of the wild turkeys I’ve been privileged to be among and photograph.
The timing of this new episode from Nature on PBS was perfect for this post: My Life as a Turkey. Thanks to an FB friend for the link.
As much as I appreciate what I learned about turkeys from Joe Hutto’s experience, I have strong feelings about the imprinting process and how it might be interpreted by viewers. I formed a greater understanding of wild turkeys through this program, and I imagine others were similarly affected. But avoiding habituation is so ingrained in me by my various mentors. Outcomes for habituated wild animals are often harsh. And the incident near the end of the show, where Joe fights off an aggressive male turkey from his brood, is a sad reminder of why wild animals benefit most from remaining wild. Did you have an impression about that aspect of the show, one way or the other?
At the same time, this show resonated with me from a number of standpoints. Hugh and I had the opportunity to work with young wild turkeys on our wildlife hospital shift. We had only the barest glimpse of the behaviors portrayed in this show, and only in a captive and strict rehabilitative setting. Even then, there is something about the baby turkey mumblings and purrs, their inquisitiveness and social nature, that endears you to the young birds right away. In working with them, we had to fight every impulse to be too friendly. Detachment is the only methodology for their sake.
The strength of this show is that it offers an intimate and revealing look into the thought processes and social interactions of wild turkeys … qualities humans so often underestimate or overlook. The insights gained by Hutto (through his life as a turkey) are moving and thought-provoking, and tear-jerking if you consider how wild turkeys are sometimes treated. Ultimately, I hope those watching gain even greater appreciation for the emotional and social complexities of our wild brethren. They certainly need our understanding. And turkeys need it especially, this time of year.
“My Life as a Turkey” (Nature/PBS):
The Wild Turkeys of Berkeley
These are all Wild Turkey toms, taken around the East Bay hills. The ladies I encountered never came out until well into dusk. So, my photos of them are less than stellar.