Social media provides answers when baby turkey needs help | Opinion

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It is a quiet Sunday afternoon when bedlam erupts in the upper backyard. German shepherd Pica is rushing toward the forest using his big dog bark, while Cassie scuttles back to the house. She’s a spitfire — until real danger is imminent.

I quickly rush to the scene of the action. A flurry of feet on leaf litter draws my attention. A flock of wild turkeys has ventured too close to the property and Pica is playing security guard. As the birds scatter I notice that one, a female, is standing toe-to-toe with the excited shepherd.

Drawing close, I call Pica’s name, and remind him that we love wildlife. He seems to understand that there is no threat, and begins following my path away from the birds. As we start to cross the lawn, a baseball-size ball of black, white and tan fluff draws my attention.

It’s baby season.


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This young turkey poult discovered in a backyard was later rescued by his flock.

With the dogs’ attention diverted, I snap a quick pic with my phone and herd everyone inside.

•••

My first call with an injured bird is typically to the Three Rivers Avian Center in Summers County. The folks there are awesome, and have helped with rescues in our area on many occasions. However on this day I discover that their contact information did not transfer when I switched to a new cellphone.

Sometimes technology is frustrating.

Knowing that time is ticking, I recall that the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center in Roanoke, Va., frequently posts on Twitter. I compose a message, tag the center, and post it with the photo. I ask for any advice on what I need to do, or who I should call.

The agency responds immediately. “It is a turkey poult and needs to come in to the center,” the message reads. “It should not be alone. Do you know where we are located?”

•••

My mind wanders back to some 20 years ago, when my sister-in-law brought an injured barn owl to our house early on a Saturday morning. She didn’t know where to go or who to call.

This was pre-widespread Internet era, so Googling was not an option.

I recall spending hours on the phone, leaving messages at veterinarian offices and following leads. Finally, we were directed to the wildlife center in Roanoke. After another couple of hours on the road, we left the owl in their care.

Sadly, time and severe injuries took their toll. The owl did not survive.

•••

The cellphone immediately begins dinging. Friends are posting links and helpful information. One sends contact information for the Three Rivers Avian Center.

I smile, then notice more tweets from the Roanoke wildlife center.

“Where are you located? I might be able to find someone closer,” the message reads. A second one follows, “If the bird is in WV then we … cannot take it in VA and must locate a Rehabber in WV. Keep it warm.”

•••

Grimacing, I am reminded of a “fowl” situation seven years ago. An oil spill contaminated Beaver Creek and Bluestone River in Bluefield, Va., and several ducks were impacted by the event.

The ducks, photographed by our staff daily, were noticeably miserable, lethargic and ill — yet no one was coming to their aid. Folks at the Three Rivers Avian Center offered their help, but the birds could not be legally transported across the state line.

During this event I learned that ducks, raptors, songbirds and more fly across our state borders on a daily basis, yet if a human transports an ill bird across the line to get medical treatment, it could be a criminal offense.

After spending an entire day on the phone with state officials, I finally reached someone in a federal agency who granted permission for the ducks’ transport.

It was a moment that showcased bureaucracy at its worst.

•••

The “keep it warm” part of the tweet concerns me, and I immediately head out of the house to the backyard. But scanning the ribbons of grass, I see no baby bird — no feathers, no form, no poult.

There is, however, rustling in the woods. The flock has returned.

I send two quick messages to the rehab center: “Just checked the spot and baby is no longer there. I’ve kept the dogs in the house.

“Hearing turkeys in the forest within 10-20 feet of where baby was found. Could they have rescued?”

The response is again immediate: “Yes, that is fabulous news.”

I breathe a sigh of relief, then hit the button to ‘like” and “retweet” the message.

Yes, technology and social media can be frustrating. But at other times they are wondrous tools.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.



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