Wednesday, November 23, 2005


There's a juicy story about wild turkeys on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today. It seems the birdies are fighting back! A cautionary tale this Thanksgiving eve:
In April, Will Millington was riding his dirt bike down a narrow trail in Norman, Okla., when he stopped before a flock of wild turkeys. The hens scattered, but two toms flared their feathers and stalked toward him. Then they suddenly leapt in the air, beat Mr. Millington with their wings and tried to scratch him with the sharp spurs on the backs of their legs.

Mr. Millington frantically revved his bike's motor. Thirty yards down the trail he looked back. "They were running after me," says the 46-year-old property manager. "That was kind of spooky."
The story reports that this year alone a Massachusetts Wildlife Department district manager has gotten 25 calls for advice on coping with aggressive turkeys and a wildlife conservation officer in Pennsylvania has had to kill 42 turkeys in response to behavior ranging from attacking a child on a tricycle to scratching cars. A public relations entrepreneur was pursued by 30 of the creatures when she passed a farmers' field where farm-raised wild turkeys were pecking for grain:

A passing friend stopped her pickup truck and Ms. Kosheff ran around it several times. The turkeys kept up the chase, although she says "they were too stupid to split up or change directions" to trap her. Finally, Ms. Kosheff got in the truck, where, she says, her friend "was laughing so hard she almost choked on her Dunkin' Donut."
The problem might be that our appeasement policy has failed:
Wild-turkey flocks have a pecking order. If they live around humans, some of the dominant toms may begin to include people in that order -- at a level below themselves, says Jim Cardoza, a turkey expert at the Massachusetts wildlife agency. Wild turkeys "get used to people and incorporate them into their view of society," he says. Some behavior, such as putting out bird food and slinking quietly away, can encourage these lordly males to think that humans are a subservient life form, believes Mr. Cardoza.

Biologist James Earl Kennamer, senior vice president of the National Wild Turkey Federation, an Edgefield, S.C., hunters' group, has studied wild turkeys for 40 years. "When they think you're one of them, they'll fight you to show who's dominant," he says. "If you turn your back, they'll take it to mean they're dominant."

Thank god we're given some tips to cope with the menace:
  • "carry an umbrella to poke at the turkey"
  • "get your broom and swat the turkey away"
  • spray them with a garden hose
  • yell or bang pots and pans
  • get a dog
Spitbull's advice: Eat them. Yum.


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