No happy endings in nature

Nobody said it’s easy being a wild turkey.

From the time they’re laid as an egg until they die something is always trying to eat them. In Kansas that can range from bull snakes to bald eagles…and me.

There are also the hazards of being hit by cars. I’ve found several with broken necks or wings after flying into a wire fence.

And there are assorted sicknesses and diseases, too. Recently a birder sent me this photo of an old tom that hangs around his place. The bird’s head and mouth are covered with huge, ugly warts. Even eating corn from a trough has become very difficult.

A tom turkey near Wichita with a case of avian pox, which will probably prove fatal.

A tom turkey near Wichita with a case of avian pox, which will probably prove fatal.

I forwarded the photo to Jim Pitman, Wildlife and Parks’ turkey biologist. He and another biologist gave a diagnosis as avian pox. Wild turkeys are one of many kinds of birds that can get the disease that can be transmitted by mosquitoes or other birds.

There’s no evidence the pox can be passed to humans though domestic fowl can be infected.

The tom pictured above doesn’t face a very bright future. In fact it could already be dead from starvation or so weakened it was easy prey for a predator.

Nobody said it’s easy being a wild turkey. But that’s why nature designed hens to lay clutches of a dozen or more eggs.

Nature can’t save the individuals, but it has a way of caring for the species.