The Great Turkey Rescue That Wasn't

For what it's worth, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman wasn't the only one confused by what was happening at a recent event in Florida. It looked like turkeys were getting saved and sounded like turkeys were getting saved — so many people just assumed turkeys were getting saved.

"I'm really thankful these turkeys didn't stick around for Thanksgiving," one girl said.

Even other reporters jumped to that conclusion.

"Thanksgiving seemed an appropriate time to let these birds go — they will escape the dinner table this year," a local reporter was told.

Many people came to a field after getting a press release from a hunting advocacy group called "The National Wild Turkey Federation." It read: "Wild turkeys take flight near Tampa. Witness the release of wild turkeys into suitable habitat." But since people hunt in that area and this is hunting season, is this really better than where they were before?

So where did the turkeys come from?

"They were just trapped because of this event we're having here today to show the kids," says James Earl Kennamer, the Federation's vice president. "So we're turning them lose, right back where they started."

So, yes, the turkeys were actually in the field to begin with. They were caught for the camera, basically, to show what a release is like.

"To the kids!" Kennamer said, enthusiastically.

The kids, and the cameras — and ultimately the hunters.

Kennamer explains that there are plenty of wild turkeys in America — 7 million in fact. But that still doesn't explain why these 14 had to get abducted.

"The media that we're doing here today is an event showing that this is what it took to bring wild turkeys back on this continent — talk about the heritage and talk about the history of this country," Kennamer says. As for the turkey, well, he says, "he had a bad night in a box."

So far, the kids aren't aware they were tricked.

"We accomplished giving the turkeys a whole new world to them," a girl says. This is something they haven't seen in "so long," she adds.

Or hours. But why let facts get in the way of a good turkey kidnapping.

"This has been such an amazing experience," a girl says. "They just spread their beautiful wings and just soar off into the sky. It's just amazing."
  • Melissa McNamara

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