Wild turkey population explodes in Massachusetts > Massachusetts

The state that hosted the country’s first Thanksgiving dinner is now dealing with a growing population of wild turkeys.

According to the state wildlife agency, there were about 1,000 birds in 1978. Today the population is estimated at 30,000 to 35,000 birds.

State officials say wild turkeys are “an important natural resource in Massachusetts.” They are classified as wild birds for which hunting seasons have been established.

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Aynsley Floyd, a local filmmaker and photographer, takes a look at the population boom and weighs the benefits and consequences of the birds in her latest documentary Turkey Town.

“Growing up in Massachusetts, I don’t remember ever seeing a turkey in the ’70s and ’80s,” Floyd said on Boston Public Radio. “This got my interest and I did some research on the subject and it turns out that the resurgence of turkeys in the area is a really interesting conservation success story.”

Wild turkeys are “black to blackish-bronze in color with white wing stripes, blackish-brown tail feathers and a bluish-gray to red head,” according to the wildlife agency. Male wild turkeys are called “toms” while females are called “chickens”.

The birds are active during the day and perch in large trees at night to avoid predators.

But they can be a bit annoying.

Turkeys in the wild are much stronger and faster than those that land on Thanksgiving tables, experts say. Men in particular are driven to display physical aggression in order to climb the social pecking order, and they sometimes see humans as potential competitors.

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Complaints about nuisance turkeys have increased in Boston and its suburbs in recent years, causing headaches for police and public health officials who have been called to solve problems.

Often the complaint is little more than a wayward turkey blocking traffic, but in some cases turkeys became so aggressive that police said they had to shoot them for public safety reasons. Some residents in the area were slightly injured by the birds, including a 72-year-old woman who told police she suffered bruises after a group of turkeys scratched and pecked her while out for a walk.

Wildlife experts say much of the problem can be blamed on residents forgoing feed for turkeys, which encourages flocks to settle and helps them survive winters.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed to this.

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