It being Sunday, I thought it appropriate to offer a reading from the Book of Revelation. Actually I’m going to offer three revelations, for it is through knowledge that we gain a greater understanding and acceptance of the truth.

Revelation I – The earth is not flat. For centuries people believed it was, and if you traveled too far you would simply fall off. But there were some pretty clever fellows around, even back then, and by looking at the stars they theorized the world was round. These heretics were ridiculed, demeaned and ostracized until Magellan circumnavigated the globe. That silenced the critics until more recently, when a cult of heavily medicated millennials decided it was trendy to revive the flat-earth theory.

Revelation II – The moon is not made of green cheese. This is one of those myths that, like rabbits and reindeer, our parents instilled in us at a young age. By the time we’re old enough to reason, we’ve pretty much figured out it’s not. Imagine how many cows it would take to make the milk for that much cheese. Besides, floating out in space for 4.5 billion years, it would almost certainly be covered with a dense forest of mold by now. Anyway, Neil Armstrong put that myth to rest when he took one small step for man in 1969.

Revelation III – Wild turkeys aren’t detrimental to other wildlife populations. This myth, like the Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin, who was shot, stabbed, poisoned and beaten, refuses to die. Perhaps part of that is because to anyone born before the 1980s they are new to the state. There was a brief tick on the geologic clock where they were absent from New England, but for most of the last 12,000 years they thrived in our fields and forests, long before even the Vikings set foot on our shores.

But New Englanders, particularly Mainers, tend to be suspicious of “foreigners.” It probably doesn’t help their case that these recently restored returnees are quite visible and vocal. An even larger coincidence is the recent decline in deer numbers. Blaming turkeys for that is like blaming the introduction of zip codes for the death of President Kennedy because they were in the same year.

Fortunately we can turn to the same reliable source that brought us a round earth and non-dairy moon – science – for verification. Because humans are so skeptical, not always a bad thing, biologists have toiled tirelessly to investigate the interaction between wild turkeys and other forest dwellers. What have they learned?

As utterly absurd as it seems, some people actually believe wild turkeys eat grouse chicks, or eggs (see: moon made of green cheese). They don’t. They eat many of the same foods as grouse, including plants, seeds and insects, but the two species have coexisted peacefully for millions of years. But the grouse aren’t quite as adaptable to and tolerant of deforestation and human development. Add a few cold, wet springs, look in the mirror and the real cause of low grouse numbers is revealed.

Ironically, their insect diet has done far more harm than good to the wild turkey’s reputation. Watching a dozen or more birds glean their way across a blueberry field might send chills up the spine of the landowner, until they dispatch a bird and find it full of harmful, plant-eating insects. And turkeys don’t restrict their diet to six-legged creepy-crawlies.

They also love to eat ticks; so not only are they not responsible for the recent proliferation of these eight-legged pests, they may be the most effective means of holding tick numbers in check.

It’s probably the wild turkey’s affinity for acorns that draw the most ire from the green cheese flatlanders. They do indeed share a preference for hard mast with their furry, four-legged friends, white-tailed deer. And I suppose if enough aggressive birds show up in the same place at the same time, they might even run a few deer off the acorn flats from time to time, though more often they simply feed side by side. But when the sun sets the deer will be back and can have their way.

It’s also important to note that acorns are a luxury, providing a welcome bounty in years with a strong mast crop. But deer and turkeys do just fine in those years when few if any acorns hit the ground.

Remember, they grew up together and except for the brief period of a human generation or two, have coexisted in New England since the last glacier. So rather than disparage them, perhaps we should welcome back our wayward wild turkeys, and stop perpetuating silly myths.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist, registered Maine guide and the author of two books on turkey hunting. He can be reached at:

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