This is a post from Guest Author Randall Johnson, who has contributed a number of guest posts and comments to this blog.
A few weeks ago, I came across a news item that got me thinking about the extremes our current level of separation from the natural world can sometimes carry us.
It seems a small town in Massachusetts
However, in early August, the local police found it necessary to apprehend and euthanize Freddy after he was declared a public safety hazard for having attacked motorcyclists and passersby. Afterwards, the town held a memorial service for its beloved bird, with mourners leaving flowers and notes. One resident even set up a Facebook page in Freddy’s honor with over 1,500 friends and counting.
What the townspeople may not have known is wild turkeys can be aggressive when they lose their fear of people and, after several months of urban living, Freddy had become pretty much fearless. As such, he wasn’t an ideal candidate for relocation, as was pointed out by local wildlife officials.
Now, there was nothing unusual or out-of-the-ordinary about Freddy’s behavior, considering he’d become habituated to humans and vehicular traffic. However, the fact that some of the town’s citizens organized and participated in a memorial service for him gave me pause for reflection. It struck me that the energy and emotion that went into this act of mourning was disproportionate to the situation.
Granted, wild turkeys are the official game bird of Massachusetts
Granted, by 1851, they had been wiped out from the state as a result of hunting.
However, in 1972-1973, the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife launched
a successful reintroduction program, starting with 37 turkeys. Today, the
turkey population in Massachusetts
So, they’re not threatened with imminent extinction, unlike the 16,300 or so plant and animal species that appear on the World Conservation Union’s 2007 Red List of Threatened Species.
Let’s put this into perspective even more.
Wild turkeys grow to be 4 feet
Some residents report being happy to see a bit a nature strolling around, whereas others are wary, even afraid, of what these sometimes ornery birds might do, especially when children are around. More than a few people have even reported being terrorized by them, prompting local police to issue guidelines about what to do—and not to do—should people meet a wild turkey on the sidewalk.
It strikes me that reintroduction programs can be a double-edge sword. Yes,
At the individual level, some people’s need for contact with nature leads to maudlin displays of sentimentality that make for good headlines but that’s about all.
There’s no question that we need to exercise a healthy dose of compassion in our treatment of other species. After all, humans are now the leading cause of extinction. But in addition to using our hearts, we also need to use our heads.