Monday, May 22, 2006

From The Salem Evening News Today

I for one welcome our new Turkey Overlords.

cut-n-pasted because Salem Eve News online kills stories after one day. I claim fair use.

Wild turkey population continues to grow

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By Alan Burke
Staff writer

Get ready to scream like a maniac

The state's wild turkey population is growing, according to experts from Mass Wildlife. And yelling and throwing things is exactly what you need to do in response.


This comes even as some locals have begun to wonder if the turkey population is in decline here. West Peabody's Ann Birkner, for example, used to see so many turkeys gathering on Goodale Street that the stubborn birds stopped traffic. That isn't happening anymore

"I don't know where they are," she says. "They must have left West Peabody for a better place."

It seems more likely that they've become adapted to suburban ways, more discreet, less eager to flash those gaudy feathers at every passing car. In his travels across Danvers, Patrolman Daniel Kenneally hasn't seen an increase in turkeys — but he hasn't seen a decrease either.

"They're all over the place," he says. "It's not uncommon to see a turkey every day." Not that he's worried about it. "If you leave them alone, they're fine."

Peabody's Parks Director Dick Walker said the turkey population might be more dispersed.

"They may be getting driven from one place to another, probably by coyotes." Which is saying something because pushing turkeys around isn't an easy thing to do.

"They're pretty obstinate birds," Walker chuckles. "They're not going to get out of the way for a car."

The coyote population has increased, agrees Mariam Larson, a biologist with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. And that has had an impact on the turkey population. But it isn't much of an impact.

Volunteer observers across the state are telling state wildlife officials that the wild turkey population appears to be growing despite the coyotes , even in suburban areas like the North Shore.

Which is a problem, Larson said.

"We need to keep wild things wild," he said.

Free meals tossed by residents have led to turkeys losing their fear of people — a potentially dangerous situation, especially for turkeys.

But you can help, she said.

"What we are suggesting is that every now and then you should run out and scare them to death. ... Go out there and shout at them. Throw things. Run at them like a crazy maniac."

Otherwise, she worries, turkeys begin to think that people are turkeys. Then they get aggressive.

When humans approach, strutting toms want to establish right away who's boss bird, which can be painful.

"You know the term pecking order?" Larson asked. "It's literally true."

Spring is the mating season, another reason why fewer turkeys might be in evidence, she says — they're busy. But the recent cold and rain could have an impact on the population for the future because it tends to limit the number of hatched chicks.

Additionally, there is a hunting season for wild turkeys.

"And they taste great," Larson said.

When they first appeared on local streets several years ago, officials at Mass Wildlife dismissed the phenomenon as an aberration. The birds were then believed to be among a flock of wild turkeys raised in captivity and illegally released. Officials promised they would be unable to cope with the hectic pace of suburban life and all would be dead in a year.

That didn't happen.

Instead, wild turkeys, those born in the wild, have done something no one expected them to do — learned to live with and off of people.

They might be called turkeys, Larsen observes, "but wild turkeys are smart."


Blogger coffeesnob3 said...

Hey, if anyone kills one (without poisoning it) I'll cook it for them.
I've always wanted to cook a wild turkey, with bourbon sauce - of course.

May 22, 2006, 9:42:00 PM  
Blogger Dean ASC said...

I could have run one over with the truck last week.

I like them. They're funny looking.

May 22, 2006, 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Bry said...

I, too, have an affinity for funny looking animals. I guess I just feel that I can relate to them.

May 23, 2006, 7:44:00 PM  

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