Risk Assessment 101: The Call of the Turkey

Volunteers are vital to the success and well-being of our patients here at CWC. Each volunteer has a little something different that they offer to the clinic. Everyone’s experience at CWC is unique and we are grateful when they take the time to tell us, especially in writing! Brent is one of our Assistant Animal Care Staff volunteers. Here he shares about an injured turkey he rescued late last year:

It was late afternoon in mid-November when we received a call of an injured wild turkey just a few miles down the road from Chintimini Wildlife Center. The caller stated that this injured turkey was mobile but unable to fly and had been in the same location since that morning. One of the most difficult situations you can come across when responding to an injured animal call is making the attempt to rescue the animal while it is mobile (able to run and/or fly). Also, it is important to assess how much stress an animal can take in the amount of rescue attempts if you are unsuccessful in the first attempt.

 When I arrived at the location north of HWY 99, I immediately noticed an adult male turkey making his way towards the busy highway.  Once I had found a safe location, I immediately pulled over and threw on my flashers.

After exiting my vehicle I watched as the turkey crept dangerously closer and closer to the highway with a staggering limp.

With a wide berth, I made it to the shoulder of the highway leaving a row of blackberry bushes between the turkey and myself. When he noticed me approaching with a towel in hand he dove into the bushes and hunkered down to avoid capture. At this point, I was able to take a quick moment to focus on all of the possible risks of the rescue while keeping in mind the safety of all bystanders, directly/indirectly involved.

Some possible risks I quickly assessed included: endangering myself, commuters on the highway, bystanders observing the rescue as well as the safety of the injured turkey. With the turkey safely hunkered down in the blackberry bushes, I felt that there would be little chances of anyone being injured as long as I was able to keep myself between the turkey and the dangerous traffic of HWY 99. With the proper gear and clothing donned, I made my way into the blackberry thicket with the towel raised in preparation to quickly cover and secure the turkey at a moments notice. When I made it to about the middle of the thicket, I was able to get a visual on the turkey that was just out of reach. As I crept closer he noticed me and quickly began to retreat in the direction at which he came. I backed out of the thicket as quickly as possible and was able to cut him off before he could make his exit and escape as he turned around and dove back in. So I again went around to the other side of the thicket in order to place myself between the turkey and highway. We repeated this disorderly dance for about 20 minutes until the turkey was able to make it completely out of the thicket before I could make it to the other side in order to scare him back in.

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Now, with the injured animal out in the open I slowly placed myself behind him but allowed him to see me as I moved closer to try to deter him further away from the highway. As we made it to a side road that paralleled the highway I was able to keep him on track along this road until we had a small fence between the highway and us. This new rescue location allowed for a safer approach to capture and rescue. Once the turkey noticed the fence and capture was imminent, he made a quick turn away from the fence and highway and darted across the side road we were on and towards another blackberry thicket. Once the road was clear of oncoming vehicles I made my way across with my eyes focused on the injured.

With the realization of the possibility of our earlier chaotic dance repeating itself and the idea that this turkey may be able to fly to avoid capture I quickly made the decision to go all in for the capture. This move allowed the turkey no time to think so he dove head first into the nearby blackberry thicket to avoid capture, while getting stuck in the thorny briars. With the taste of our battle closely coming to an end I dove into the briars after him, placing a firm grip on each of his thighs. I covered him with a towel and safely removed him to the briars. From there, we made our way back to the vehicle, then ultimately back to Chintimini Wildlife Center to begin his intake exam and rehabilitation process.

After just over a month of rehab this male turkey was able to make a full recovery and was released in the vicinity where he was found with an adult female turkey that was admitted to us at CWC from the same area.

 While being out on a wildlife rescue call you have to be able to make quick and safe decisions by observing your surroundings and the hazardous possible outcomes. By predicting the animal’s response to your attempts at rescue and coming up with a safe plan around these possible responses, a dangerous situation can become less dangerous to all directly/indirectly involved. With all of the hazardous possibilities during this rescue, we all were able to safely walk away from this event and ultimately meet the goal of giving this adult turkey a second chance at life.

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