By Beth David, Editor
Springtime brings out lots of things in these parts: Warm breezes, budding flowers, chirping songbirds, and wild turkeys.
Residents in all area towns have noticed that the wild turkeys are not only plentiful, but also very aggressive in the last few weeks. Broadcast media and social media have been filled with tales of wild turkeys keeping people from getting out of cars, or getting into buildings.
With cellphones handy, people have managed to get lots of photos of wild turkeys charging, pecking at cars, or flying up to roost in trees.
This time of year, turkeys are probably aggressive because it is still breeding season.
According to the Mass. Wildlife website: “Courtship activity begins when birds are concentrated in large flocks in the wintering areas, perhaps as early as late February.”
Turkeys live by the pecking order and are quite comfortable assigning humans a lower spot on that order, hence, the attack.
“The male’s primary courtship behaviors are the ‘gobble’ and the ‘strut,’” reads the website. “Gobbling serves to attract hens, but may also attract other males. Perhaps the other males seek to challenge the gobbler’s dominance. In the Northeast, the peak of gobbling (and hence mating) ranges from the latter part of April to early May.”
The reality is, if you have a problem with aggressive turkeys, then it’s probably too late for the best way to stop them from taking over the neighborhood, which is to stop them from being “habituated” in the first place. After that, it takes a village, so to speak.
“The best defense against aggressive or persistent turkeys is to prevent the birds from becoming habituated in the first place by being bold to them,” reads the Mass Wildlife website.
“Everyone in the neighborhood must do the same; it will be ineffective if you do so only on your property. Each and every turkey must view all humans as dominant in the pecking order and respond to them as superiors rather than subjects. Habituated turkeys may attempt to dominate or attack people that the birds view as subordinates.”
Turkeys, although plentiful when the pilgrims arrived, disappeared completely from Mass. by 1851. In the early 1970s, 37 wild turkeys from New York were introduced in the Berkshires, and the population survived. From that population, turkeys were trapped and released in other parts of the state, including three times in Bristol County in 1988, 1993, and 1996. The state now has about 18,000 to 20,000 turkeys.
In 1952, there were only 320,000 turkeys in the US. By 1999 the combined US-Canada turkey population exceeded 5.4 million. It is one of the great success stories of modern wildlife management.
Spring hunting season for wild turkeys in Mass. is April 24 through May 20.
For more information on wild turkeys, visit Mass Wildlife at http:// www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/ dfw/fish-wildlife-plants/wild-turkey-faq.html or http://www.mass audubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/ birds/wild-turkeys
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