ILLUMINATION IN THE FLATWOODS: A Season with the Wild Turkeys by Joe Hutto

ILLUMINATION IN THE FLATWOODS: A Season with the Wild Turkeys

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In his first book, naturalist and wildlife artist Hutto beautifully chronicles an audacious, inventive experiment in ethology--the imprinting and subsequent rearing of two broods of wild turkeys in the fiatwoods of north Florida. Hutto is no stranger to human imprinting (in which wild animals identify humans as their parents at birth), having imprinted wildlife ranging from pocket gophers to whitetailed deer. The turkeys are different, though. Rather than taming them, Hutto adopts the role of mother hen, teaching 23 poults to forage, explore, and practice the various putts and cackles that form turkey talk. Extraordinarily devoted, he spends every daylight hour with his charges, sneaking away in darkness once they roost. By his own admission, the book is more personal journal than objective science, wonderment ""tempered with sound, objective, unbiased observation."" He feels the possession and attachment of a pet owner, but his responsibilities are more serious. The young turkeys look to him for cues; he teaches them to fear hawks and distinguish rattlesnakes from harmless black racers. As they mature, Hutto's role shifts from teacher to pupil. Granted unlimited access to the birds (as they are to him, often perching on his head or sitting in his lap to preen), he gains considerable insight into the behavior of an animal too elusive to be observed for long in the wild. He notes cunning and cleverness, and his loving descriptions (and accomplished illustrations) correct the notion that they are ungainly and unattractive. Their hold on him is redoubtable: He dreams of them at night and grieves when predators thin their ranks. Significantly, these wild birds teach him something about the isolating self-involvement of man's estrangement from the natural world. An extraordinary tale of man-animal interaction related with bemusement, wonder, and ultimately, reverence for the complexity of nature.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Lyons & Burford