Friday, October 07
The many wonders of fall are striking in the Berkshires: The leaves change colors, pumpkins line storefronts and homes, the season of Halloween and Thanksgiving is felt all around. One type of bird that carries particular significance during this season is the turkey. The wild fowl are plentiful in this part of the world, they travel in groups and sometimes just in pairs, as they make their way across neighborhoods, into back yards; sometimes even in sight of school children, who can look out from their class windows and see the feathered creatures out in the fields.

They are part of the Berkshires' rich tapestry. This makes the recent killing of two of these birds by Pittsfield police an even more shocking, senseless and heinous action.

Police said they had been aware of two turkeys for months, and they had recently caused traffic problems downtown. The turkeys appear to have been the same birds that some residents called the mascots of Pomeroy Avenue, and the same flightless creatures that visited the school children of Herberg Middle School. Responding to a complaint about the turkeys, police caught up to the birds and followed them in two cruisers along West Housatonic Street. Officers tracked the birds to an open area west of Yankee Suites Extended Stays, and Lieutenant Michael Wynn gave the order to shoot the turkeys dead. One was killed instantly, and the other, only wounded by the gunfire, took off running. The turkey was found cowering beneath the Crowne Plaza's parking garage, where Lieutenant Wynn shot the bird.

Pittsfield police irresponsibly fired their weapons three times downtown, and the department's claim of killing the birds in the name of public safety is preposterous. Department officials said they notified the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the state agency capable of handling the wild birds, but officials there would not have been available until yesterday — a day too late. But why couldn't police have waited the day, or even longer, considering the turkeys had been in the neighborhood for months without incident?

A foolish state law prohibits the animal control officer from dealing with wild animals, but the officer in this case should have bent the rules to trap the turkeys and place them somewhere outside the city. Or the police officers should have chosen that option. There is no justifiable reason to have fired their weapons in downtown to destroy the birds. In the Berkshires we are accustomed to wild animals and grateful for their presence. Our law enforcement officers shouldn't be hunting them down.

Pittsfield has serious crime problems involving drug dealers, not turkeys, and we have been told the department is understaffed for this fight. Yet two cruisers were available for a turkey hunt. The turkeys posed no threat to the city, but the skewed priorities of the police department do.