WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — Because of recent inquiries and reports from the public about turkeys acting aggressively toward people, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is offering information about turkey behavior, tips to prevent turkey conflicts, and what to do if your town has an issue with an aggressive turkey.
Wild turkeys live in a variety of habitats in Massachusetts, including suburban and urban areas. They roost in large trees at night to avoid predators and you may see turkeys roosting on on railings, roofs, or vehicles in residential areas. Wild turkeys live in flocks (or rafts) organized by pecking order. Each bird is dominant over or "pecks on" birds of lesser social status. When turkeys are fed by people, they can become habituated and act more boldly toward people. Turkeys may attempt to dominate or attack people that they view as subordinates, and this behavior is observed during the fall when young male turkeys begin to compete with older members of the flock.
Tips for residents:
Don't feed turkeys. Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause turkeys to act tame and may lead to bold and aggressive behavior. Once bold behavior is established, it can be very difficult to change.
Remove bird feeders. Turkeys are attracted to areas where bird feeders are present. If you're having issues with turkeys, remove your bird feeders immediately and clean up spilled seed. For those who enjoy viewing birds, MassWildlife recommends attracting birds to your yard by planting native plants and shrubs or adding a water feature.
Don't let turkeys intimidate you. Residents can threaten a bold or aggressive turkey by making loud noises, swatting it with a broom, or spraying water from a hose. A leashed dog is also an effective deterrent.
Cover reflective objects. Because wild turkeys have a pecking order, they may also respond aggressively to shiny objects, interpreting their own reflection as an intruding turkey. Turkeys have been known to peck at windows, automobile mirrors, or reflections in shiny surfaces (such as polished car doors) and will often continually attack the reflection until changing light conditions cause it to vanish. If a turkey is pecking at a reflective object, cover or disguise the object.
Call local police or animal control. If you are observing aggressive turkey behavior that may be deemed as a public safety threat, contact your local police or animal control officer immediately. The town may then contact the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for options to manage aggressive turkeys in your town.
Tips for towns:
Call the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for advice. If your town is experiencing issues with aggressive turkeys that may be deemed as a public safety threat, contact your nearest MassWildlife office. Trained biologists will provide advice and options for towns to manage aggressive turkeys.
Educate residents to prevent turkey problems. Most turkey conflicts could be avoided if residents removed food sources like bird feeders. Utilize MassWildlife's Wild Turkey Fact Sheet to spread the word to residents about preventing conflicts with turkeys.
MassWildlife also reminds the public that the wild turkey is the state's official game bird and that the fall turkey hunting season begins Monday, October 23 through November 4. To learn more about turkey hunting, visit MassWildlife's Wild Turkey Hunting Information.
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