Friday, May 15, 2009

The great Turkey Mystery

I got an email from a friend in Colorado w/ the subject saying "A friend needs a ride to Safeway". I ignored it for awhile, thinking I was just on her mailing list and she was literally trying to get someone a ride into town. When I'm in Colorado I'm staying WAY up in the mountains and it wouldn't be surprising for people to buddy up for going into town. It's not trivial.

But no. It wasn't that. It was that the TURKEY IS BACK!

If you were reading the very early blogs you might remember that when I was in Colorado last summer, we were on our way to the airport for me to go back to California when we were stopped on the road by the spectacle of a wild turkey sitting in the road, panting, while a line of cars were stopped because they couldn't get past it. Then, there was also a guy in a pickup truck striding around w/ a big gun in a holster on his hip. We never did figure out if he was going to try to kill and eat it, but that's illegal to hunt from the road w/ a handgun.

So we stopped, of course, even though we could have passed since the turkey was on the other side of the road. We all agreed that an animal in trouble was more important than getting to my plane.

I went up to the turkey and he didn't move. His eyes looked glazed and he was panting, and he apparently could not stand up. So I grabbed some jeans out of my suitcase and put my arms into them to act as protection for my arms and hands, and I leaned over the bird and felt underneath for the legs, held them, and put my arms around the limp turkey and lifted him up and carried him to the car, got in, put a cloth over his eyes, and we started down the road. Richard called and called all kinds of rehab centers, wildlife people, humane society, ASPCA EVERYONE! They all either had answering machines (and none of them ever did answer our messages!) or they'd say, "A wild turkey? That's poultry. We don't do poultry.,"

Poultry? It's a wild animal in need! Geez, who knew that in Colorado you don't help an animal if it's edible. SHEESH!

The turkey was very weak and panting so we figured we'd have to put it on a large box and take it home and put it in a dark, warm, safe place. I figured I'd have to rig up something to be able to hydrate the turkey if he wouldn't drink. So we went to Safeway to try to find a large box.

Richard came back w/ the biggest box they could find, which wasn't nearly large enough, but I got out of the SUV w/ the turkey and tried to set him in the box.

Suddenly he became all power and pazzaz and shoved out of my arms and ran like a roadrunner across the parking lot. Huh?

I've never seen an "injured" bird recover so quickly in my LIFE!

I tried to corner him and take him back to the car but then he flew effortlessly to the top of the Safeway and eyed me with complete distain and disgust. Luckily, the Safeway was w/in flapping distance of the wilderness from which we'd just come and he made his way back toward the wilderness.

We were flummoxed.

Why had this turkey been hanging around on the road as if injured, not moving when people came right up to himj, but suddenly he reverted to being a wild thing once we left the area?

The only theory we could come up with was that he had figured out that going out on the road was a way to avoid predators. There must have been something in those bushes that was more frightening to him than the people. If he had been someone's pet, then why was he SOOO stressed and why did he run from me as soon as he could? Why did he allow me to handle him without a struggle in the first location?

If there had been a fox or other predator in the bushes (we see foxes all the time there), then it would have been a great strategy. The guy w/ the gun said the turkey had been hanging around the road for 3 days.

Had someonoe dumped him off?

Unbelievably, I still made my flight!

We thought the saga of the mystery turkey was over with. Until last week when he (or another turkey) showed up in the SAME PLACE, miles away from town, on the SAME ROAD! how can this be? And he's hanging around the road again!

What is going on here?

I would LOVE to hear theories from others about this, especially people who know something about turkeys. Do they have the intelligence to come up w/ a survival strategy like this? I think wild turkeys are MUCH more intelligent than domestic turkeys. There's a book called ILLUMINATION IN THE FLATWOOD that's a great study of wild turkeys and they seem to be pretty complex animals.

Comments anyone?



Ter-o-fla said...

What a story! I have no ideas on what was going on in the turkey's brain, but I have another "mystery" regarding turkeys.
Where my brother lives there is a flock of wild turkeys which comes around in the autumn and hangs around in the meadow. Then, every year about two days before Thanksgiving, they _disappear_!
They return about a week or so later. We were wondering if they _go into hiding_ or something, because of the danger of being a turkey on that day. Any ideas?

IndianaShannon said...

I do not have any words of wisdom on turkey behavior but... This is Carole Garrison (CeaGe)- remember me? We used to hang out together and write music together, in fact I still have the tape we made. OK, so this is a strange place to meet again, but ... Where in the heck have you been all these years? I have been trying to find you for years, and then I go into a Barnes & Noble and look at this random table I never look at on the way in. And I see this really cute book about an owl called Wesley, and I almost fainted - I mean how many other owls have that name then I see your name Stacy! I couldn't believe it. I know it was fate. I am so proud of you! That is so awesome and your story was so amazing. I am glad to hear that you are doing well. God truly does work in mysterious ways. I would really love to talk to you! Please call me or email me. (951)317-4809.
You look great by the way! Still look like the young beauty I used to know. Take care and I hope you do not mind that I used this as a vehicle to contact you. But I really am grateful to your book and again I am so touched and proud of you!

Nathalie said...

Hi Stacey,

Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns should be able to offer some element of clarity to this "wild" turkey behavior. Her website is:

I've done quite a bit of wild bird rescues and found that, sometimes, birds get into a kind of "stunned trance" when they are in need of help, especially while they are being handled. Then, all of a sudden, they come right out of it, and take off.

BTW, I've read your book a few months ago and LOOOOOVED it to the very bits!!! I hope people will send you enough questions for a "sequel" to be written.

Please let me know if there are any plans on Wesley The Owl being translated into french (I don't remember seeing French in the list of translations you announced in your blog). I would love to offer a copy of your book to my Mum, but she doesn't speak nor does she read english.

Finally, I want to thank you for all the enjoyment your book brought to my life in difficult times and, what best way to thank you, than to send you a book suggestion, for an equally enjoyable time!
Here it is: Corvus, a life with birds, by Esther Woolfson. It's a gem, much like Wesley's story!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did your book!

I hope Karen can help you out with your wild turkey questions, she's quite knowledgeable and experienced.

Warmest wishes,

Nathalie :)

Annette said...

I live near Wash DC in a wooded area which I have made into an urban wildlife sanctuary. We have all sorts of wildlife that feel safe on my little 5 acres. My husband suddenly passed away in March. The day after a male turkey started visiting my door knocking continuously. We have never seen a male turkey in the 15 years we have lived here. He came back everyday that week knocking knocking knocking. He left only to return on Mother's Day. A friend sent me the following Note:

The turkey is a symbol for male virility and pride. This isn’t surprising when we observe male turkeys in the wild. They are quite noble looking as the strut & fan their impressive plumage for all to see. When the turkey visits us it is a sign that we must be mindful of the blessings bestowed upon us each day. Further, it is a message to express our strength and brilliance - it’s time to show our own plumage and reveal true selves.

Quick summary of symbolic meanings of the turkey:

My husband had all the above traits!

Turkeys are at their peak of power in the autumn months. As fall season animals, turkeys are also symbolic of:
New beginnings
Did you know that Benjamin Franklin actually suggested the turkey as the symbol for the United States? The bald eagle was suggested and ultimately beat the turkey out. Many of the Eastern Woodland tribes considered the turkey the most noble of the birds