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turkey mom
A turkey mom shelters her babies.

"In a world full of people who couldn't care less, be someone who couldn't care more." — unknown

As the 2012 Conservation Congress fades into history, it has proven to be just another step in being revealed as a sham.

The Department of Natural Resources knew that there would be unusually high novice attendance at this annual "hearing" on the hunter agenda, due to the proposed crane hunt. They had a responsibility to educate citizens about the main event, the election, as they registered. They did not. So 243 citizens in Dane County arrived to vote against the crane hunt (to 62 for the hunt), but only 55 went into the auditorium to elect delegates. Their crane-friendly candidates were defeated 74 to 55.

The hunters had 78 years of insider advantage, having set up and devised a confusing election.

The Dane County election result was mirrored in Milwaukee County, where 93 voted against the crane hunt but the nonhunter candidate lost by seven votes, with both sides' votes tallied in the 60s. The election lacks transparency and fairness, deliberately hidden outside of Wisconsin election law, its importance obscured.

It is not surprising that 2,559 hunters in Wisconsin want to kill cranes. They also want to kill tundra swans. And they kill turkeys — lots of turkeys.

Wisconsin leads the nation in turkeys killed annually, 40,000-50,000 of them (see Page 4 in this link).

A turkey youth hunt was held April 7-8. April 11-May 22 is spring turkey season. This year, despite a 16 percent decline in turkey numbers, each of six five-day seasons was increased by to seven days, establishing a continuous 42-day kill. The fall season was more than doubled this year to Sept. 15-Dec. 31. Dogs are a new weapon adding more suffering and pressure. Turkeys are being killed 108 days total now.

I asked a former hunter, Carl Drake, why the DNR would license turkey hunting at this particular time of the year when turkeys are breeding and nesting. He said, "That doesn't matter to the DNR. The timing is entirely related to the behavior of male turkeys. The turkeys strut around with their fans spread to impress the females, and the hunters like to see which has the biggest fan to kill for a photo opportunity."

He went on to say that large tom wild turkeys, the goal of the spring hunt, are muscular and are thrown out, not eaten. According to his long experience, wild turkeys, geese, crows, mourning doves and most wildlife killed are just target practice and killing recreation. He told me that he knew the owner of the biggest sporting goods store in Madison (in its day), Pearson of Berg-Pearson. Their hunting group would call him, drunk (he emphasized that), and say, "Drake, we're throwing out 15 geese — do you want them?" and he would find them laid out on his lawn. He said they were too lazy to clean them. He claims it is as common now as it was then.

Karen Davis is founder of Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit that fights to save birds from factory farming cruelty. She said that farmed turkeys and chickens are not only crammed together for maximum birds per space, but also to immobilize them. This denies the birds normal muscle development, which would make them tough and inedible like wild birds.

Tom Savage, poultry scientist at Oregon State University, says that turkeys are highly intelligent birds and people who caricature them "don't know what they are talking about."

Joe Hutto learned about turkeys the way that Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees — by living with them. He raised a family of hatchlings from egg to maturity, beautifully filmed in the BBC special "My Life as a Turkey":

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Hutto paid attention. The turkeys imprinted on him in their eggs, connected by his vocalizations. Hutto lived only with them, no humans, for a year and a half. He was challenged by their complex vocalizations and could not master them all. He noted that the young turkeys expressed distress seeing tree stumps, recognizing something wrong with the destruction of trees. He bonded most closely with a female who nestled on his lap regularly, and mourned her loss when her nest was robbed of her first eggs, and she was killed by a natural predator.

This documentary is a tribute to human curiosity and love of wild turkeys as individuals to be respected and protected.

The DNR is running a turkey management documentary and public survey. Although it is entirely biased to serve their elite "constituency," you can find blank spaces to write in a nonhunting perspective. Please do.

Please contact your U.S. senators to vote no on Senate Bill 2066. It has passed the House. Like SB 226 in Wisconsin, it mandates opening all federal lands and national parks to killing our wildlife and shooting ranges. It is scheduled for a vote in the next week.

Sign a petition against the annual slaughter of Wisconsin black bears.

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. madravenspeak@gmail.com

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