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Should those who fed wild turkeys share in blame?

December 26th, 2011 7:43 am by Staff Report

The story of the killing of two wild turkeys in a north Johnson City neighborhood has sparked a number of letters to the editor and comments on our website. Most of the responders have found fault with the way the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency handled the situation. Others say Towne Acres residents who fed the two gobblers are also to blame for their demise.
As Press staff writer Amanda Marsh reported recently, TWRA Officer David Crum killed the male turkeys with a knife after receiving complaints that they had chased people walking their dogs or jogging in the area, as well as patrons trying to enter the Regions Bank building at 208 Sunset Drive.

“A flogging turkey with spurs can do damage,” Crum said of the bony spikes that grow on the back of male turkeys’ legs.

“They are strong animals, you don’t want to lay hands on them. Just like any animal when they feel threatened, they can harm others.”

TWRA officials said the residential area where the turkeys called home made it dangerous for them to try to shoot the turkeys.

Wildlife officers also considered trapping and relocating the turkeys, but decided that was not a humane option.

Unseasonably warm temperatures could have caused the turkeys to overheat during transport. Heat exhaustion, plus the stress of being held in captivity for a period of time, often means death for trapped turkeys.

Even so, fans of the turkeys said they were appalled by the manner in which the turkeys were dispatched.

Crum killed the birds with a knife Dec. 9 after receiving a call from a nearby business that a patron had been chased around his vehicle.

“To me, this is totally bizarre and unnecessary,” said John Conley, a broker agent at Century Pro Service Realtor, No. 3 Limited Centre. “I never had a bit of problems. A couple of agents were petting them earlier that afternoon (before they were killed).”
Wildlife officials and others, however, say that was part of the problem. Witnesses say people often fed the Sunset Drive turkeys popcorn and french fries. The wild turkeys’ death would not have been necessary, TWRA officer Jeff Prater told the Press, had people not started feeding them.
“We don’t usually associate turkeys with being aggressive toward people,” he said. “This is another example when people feed the wildlife. They think they’re doing something positive. The wildlife always loses in the end.”
Never feed wild animals. Doing so causes them to lose their instinctive fear of humans turning them into nuisance critters that are unpredictable and dangerous when they encounter people.

We want to know what you think. Should the people who fed the turkeys share in the blame for their deaths?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or  . Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.

We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks. You also can go to   to cast a vote in the online poll.

Results of the poll, along with comments from readers, will appear on the Opinion page Jan. 4.

Meanwhile, we would like to remind you there are things homeowners can do to discourage wildlife from paying them a visit. One of the first things residents should do is to make sure they dispose of their garbage in containers that are sealed tightly.

Also, it is important that pet food is not left in a place where roaming wildlife can get at it.

Keep dog and cat food in sealed containers, and never leave pet food outdoors unattended.

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