Please Don’t Feed the Turkeys

The bizarre Father’s Day incident in Chilmark in which a turkey attacked people delivering baby equipment and then two town police officers — an episode that ended with the turkey dead and its owner facing assault charges — has drawn chuckles across the Island.

At its core, however, the episode is no laughing matter and the outcome could have been worse.

The turkey, which was acting aggressively, could have injured the delivery workers or the police with its beak and talons. Or the attack could have been against a small child.

Under the circumstances, police officer Jeffrey Day was right to shoot and kill the turkey.

The real problem in this case started long before the attack, when Chilmark resident Jonathan Haar decided to begin feeding an orphaned wild turkey he named Tom.

Mr. Haar developed affection for Tom and felt anger toward the turkey’s killers. His alleged confrontation of the police officers has led to assault charges.

But as naturalists and wildlife experts have pointed out, wild animals should not be fed and treated as pets. The animals lose their natural fear of people and become overly territorial, viewing new people as a threat to their reliable food supply.

As the Vineyard’s human population grows, the chance for interaction with the Island’s wild animal population increases. People need to act responsibly toward wild animals. Humans should know better; animals do not.