Wild turkeys near you? Conservationists in Massachusetts want your help

State officials who monitor the population of wild turkeys in a balloon are encouraging people to report any wild hens, toms, chicks and jakes they encounter in the region.

MassWildlife is urging the public to contribute to the state’s annual Wild Turkey Brood Survey, which helps estimate wild turkey numbers, productivity, reproductive success and harvest potential in the fall.

Reports on wild turkeys now come from all regions of the state, from the most rural communities in the Bay State to the most populous areas around Boston.

“It’s amazing how far they’ve gone,” Marj Rines, a naturalist at Mass Audubon, told the Herald. “You will now see them wandering the streets of the city.”

She noted that wild turkeys can thrive in a city because of the metropolitan’s open spaces, including parks and cemeteries with green space. Turkeys in suburban and urban areas also rely heavily on birdseed from bird feeders.

The state’s wild turkey population has grown exponentially since the 1970s, when MassWildlife biologists captured 37 turkeys in New York and released them into the Berkshires. The new flock grew and by the fall of 1978 the estimated population was about 1,000 birds.

As more birds came in from neighboring states, turkeys soon spread through most parts of western Massachusetts. After that, the wild turkeys continued to expand their range into central, northeastern and southeastern areas of the state – and today the wild turkey population is estimated to be between 30,000 and 35,000 birds.

Wild turkeys are active during the day and nest in large trees at night to avoid predators. In residential areas, it is not uncommon for turkeys to rest on railings, roofs, or sometimes on vehicles.

“People should just ignore them for the most part,” Rines said.

MassWildlife officials are warning people never to intentionally feed wild turkeys, which will lure them to their property and keep them around. Turkeys can survive very well on natural food and do not need handouts from humans.

“Use feeders designed to keep seed off the ground, as bird seed attracts turkeys and other wildlife,” said MassWildlife. “Turkeys and other animals that feed on the seed can excrete in the seed stock and spread disease to others. Clean up spilled birdseed every day.”

When people encounter aggressive turkeys, they should also not hesitate to frighten or threaten a daring turkey with loud noises, squirt water from a hose, or swat it with a broom. A dog on a leash is also an effective deterrent.

MassWildlife conducts this annual survey from June 1 to August 31 to estimate the number of turkeys. The wildlife officials reminded people to be extra careful when counting broods, because small chicks — newly hatched turkeys — can be difficult to spot in tall grass or undergrowth.

To learn more about the state’s Wild Turkey Brood Survey and to report wild turkey sightings, visit www.mass.gov/news/report-wild-turkey-sightings

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