A female wild turkey with an arrow through her back prompted calls last week from concerned residents who spotted her with a flock in the vicinity of Greenwood Avenue and Franklin Terrace in Vineyard Haven.
Despite the bird’s injury, she proved elusive for Tisbury animal control officer Laurie Clements, who responded to the calls and attempted to catch her.
A caretaker at a house on Greenwood Avenue first alerted the Dukes County Communications Center about the injured turkey last Thursday.
Times photographer Ralph Stewart, who met Ms. Clements on Greenwood Avenue, said the turkey looked relatively unfazed by the whole situation. In photos he took, the arrow appears to be lodged just under the skin along the bird’s upper back, with the feathered end sticking out on one side and the tip slightly protruding through the skin on the other.
“I told the communications center to let people know, if they get any more calls, that the bird does not seem compromised,” Ms. Clements said later. “The turkey is totally fine. It walks, it roosts, it runs, it flies, and it’s eating and drinking.”
In fact, despite the awkwardness of her new armament, the turkey has managed to escape capture by Ms. Clements three times.
“I was running after her through the woods and had a net, but she’s too fast,” Ms. Clements admitted with frustration in her voice. “I had to walk away.”
Although the well-prepared animal control officer always carries some scratch feed in her truck, she said the injured turkey wouldn’t come near it.
“I did speak with a seasoned bow hunter, who said he thought the arrow would work its way out or break off,” Ms. Clements said. “If I could catch it, I don’t know if I would want to actually take the arrow out, because I’d be opening up the wound.”
Rather than make that decision, she said she would rather catch the bird and take it to an Island veterinarian to determine whether it should be treated or euthanized.
Although there is a wildlife rehab center on Cape Cod, Ms. Clements said, it would be difficult for anyone to transport the injured turkey there. Although she had not thought of notifying Massachusetts environmental police Sgt. Matt Bass about the turkey last week, Ms. Clements agreed that would be a good idea.
In a phone call with The Times on Monday, Sgt. Bass said his first thought, when told about the injured turkey, was that illegal hunting activity was likely involved.
However, it is also possible that the injured bird has been walking around with an arrow in it since spring turkey hunting season, he added.
“That just ended in May, which is not that long ago, so it’s perfectly possible that somebody took a shot at the turkey, and it wasn’t a fatal shot,” Mr. Bass said. “But on the other hand, there have been some complaints in that area of Vineyard Haven about these turkeys becoming too used to people and taking advantage of some bird feeders, and they do get aggressive. So maybe somebody took matters into their own hands to try to take care of an overly aggressive problem turkey. It’s tough to say.”
Whatever the reason, the archer’s actions were illegal if he or she let his or her arrow fly out of season, Mr. Bass said. Also, hunting female turkeys is not allowed during the spring season.
The fine for attempting to kill or killing a turkey out of season is up to $500 per incident, Sgt. Bass said.
“Typically, in doing so a person breaks other laws as well, such as not having a tag for the turkey, or in this case, shooting or releasing an arrow too close to a road or to a house,” Mr. Bass said. “Any number of offenses start to add up, and all of them are cause for arrest.”
There are plenty of ways to deal with problem turkeys legally, Mr. Bass pointed out, such as taking away food sources such as bird feeders, making loud noises, and squirting them with a water hose.
How would he handle an injured turkey? Mr. Bass said he would probably do the same things Ms. Clements did: Look at the bird, assess its health, and if he couldn’t catch it, let it be.
“I’d prefer not to put it down, and if it was doing all right and was managing and fending for itself naturally, then I would have no problem with that,” he said.
Unfortunately, usually when Sgt. Bass gets a call about an injured turkey, it is a request to euthanize it.
“Rehabbing a turkey is probably not going to happen,” he admitted. “A lot of times, people call me and are expecting an animal or bird to be captured and brought back to health. But typically, that’s not what I do, and it’s not the outcome people are looking for.”
A call to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic in Grafton revealed that when it comes to the fate of injured turkeys, like real estate, it’s all about location.
Spokesman Tom Keppeler said on Monday that the Tufts Wildlife Clinic just happened to be treating a turkey shot with a target arrow.
After keeping track of the injured bird for about a week, a Framingham animal control officer built a special trap to catch it and another officer brought it to the clinic, Mr. Keppeler said. Veterinarians at the clinic x-rayed the bird and determined the arrow was intact.
“It was very fortunate for the turkey that since the arrow did not have a wide head, it was removed very easily and pulled out fully intact, without impacting any major organs,” he said.
While the Framingham turkey has a good prognosis for a full recovery, in the meantime, Ms. Clements will continue to keep track of its distant cousin on Martha’s Vineyard.
“I will still respond to calls about it, because if it’s weakening in any way, I want to be able to catch it so it doesn’t lay out there and suffer,” she said.
Sgt. Bass said anyone who spots an injured wild animal or bird should call him at 774-836-8081.