Wild turkeys in the neighborhood

Turkey Tourists
Mild winters and ample food sources have allowed turkeys to thrive. The author says it’s rare not to see turkeys on his way home from work. (Photo by Tom Pink)

Lately, I’ve been reading some interesting news stories about the proliferation of wild turkeys in the United States.

From California to Maine, the turkey population is increasing and the growing number of birds is causing all sorts of problems – from automobile and motorcycle crashes, to muggings on college campuses and outside urban office buildings. One story I read said turkeys have gone from really low numbers in the 1970s to about 7 million now, nationwide. David Scarpitti, a turkey biologist in Massachusetts, told The Guardian that turkeys have gone from a “conservation success story to a wildlife-management situation.” Canada geese have a similar story – from rare to overabundance.

My brother, a turkey hunter, told me about a gobbler attacking people in the parking lot at his place of employment. I asked him why people don’t grab the birds by the neck, especially if they have a turkey tag in their possession. He said “they’re a bit intimidating if you don’t have a shotgun in your hands.” I suppose that’s true.

I’ve yet to be accosted by a turkey, but it’s probably just a matter of time. I live in a rural neighborhood which, until the past couple of years, hadn’t seen turkeys in decades. Mild winters and multiple bird feeders have helped a few of them thrive and now it is rare if I don’t see a turkey or two, or six, on my way home from work.

Or even at work.

Several weeks ago, a nervous coworker told me there was a gang of turkeys outside our office building. Sure enough, the birds were milling about the front doors and I wondered if they might come inside if I invited them.

I look at Michigan’s increasing turkey population the same way that I look at our multitude of Canada geese. I’m glad there are more of them because I enjoy hunting and eating them. I suppose I might feel differently if I had a child or grandchild who played soccer on fields made slick with goose and turkey excrement.

So if you have turkeys in your neighborhood, or Canada geese, perhaps remember what Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” You may need it to get to your car.

Categories: Michigan – Tom Pink, Turkey

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