In a recent post, I wrote about the role of raptors and other predators. The animals that predators prey upon are also of very important for a healthy ecosystem. It’s also worth pointing out that predators can also be (and often are) prey themselves.
In that prior post, I referred to the now classic case of ecosystem failure caused through over-hunting predators on the Kaibab Plateau in Arizona. The deer, freed from predation by their natural predators, soon over-populated the area and over-grazed the land. Their impact led to an ecosystem that could support fewer of both prey and predators. So having a balance is important, and human intervention can often lead to tragic consequences.
Therefore, when I run into the remains of various animals on the trail, I am less dismayed at the fallen animal than I am grateful for their existence and what they contributed to a healthy ecosystem. We need prey. We need predators. We need predators to also, in most cases, be prey as well. It may be that we are the first predator and prey that has largely escaped one of these roles, except, it must be pointed out, from ourselves.
In the end, humans are the most deadly predator of them all.
An adult wild turkey in the Red Quarry.
“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away” – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards
I think I’m beginning a rather disturbing habit of quoting song lyrics and lines from movies in these posts. Slap me if I get out of hand.
Wild turkeys are common sights on the Montini Preserve and the Sonoma Overlook Trail. Just the other day I spotted a flock of parents and young ones in the Red Quarry on the Montini Open Space Preserve. But I’ve also seen wild turkeys many times before, including during a rainstorm.
Although definitely not widespread in California (according the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, they occupy about 18 percent of the state), wild turkeys are fairly common in Sonoma County. I live in the hills of Boyes Hot Springs and we have seen them in the neighborhood not all that far from the Montini Preserve.
The turkeys we have in California can be considered non-native, although turkeys existed in California some thousands of years ago. So technically, as at least one person has argued, they can be considered to be “reintroduced” to the state. They can become a nuisance to humans at times if their populations increase enough, but so far I would have to say that they don’t seem to have reached such levels locally. At least from my experience the times that I have spotted them have been few enough to be surprising and delightful.
But even if such sightings were not happy occasions, wild turkeys would never be able to drag me away from the Montini Open Space and Sonoma Overlook Trail. Just sayin’.