The Wild Turkeys Menacing US Towns

Once the aim of a country-wide conservation effort, wild turkey populations have ballooned in urban and suburban areas, leading to some altercations with human residents.

What to know:

  • 46 million commercially raised turkeys are eaten in the United States each year for Thanksgiving, but wild turkey populations are also booming, with an estimated 7 million birds nationwide.

  • In the late nineteenth century, wild turkey populations plummeted. Their return is largely due to efforts from conservation groups between the 1950s and 1970s, which trapped wild turkeys and shipped them around the country to start new colonies.

  • Now they primarily live in areas adjacent to people, where they have no significant predators and easy access to food, according to biologist Chris Bernier of the Vermont fish and wildlife department, who estimates the state’s turkey population to be around 45,000, up from just 32 birds brought there in the ’60s and ’70s.

  • Hundreds of conflicts between wild turkeys and humans are reported each year, including a motorcycle crash in New Hampshire caused by a turkey assault and a postal worker in New Jersey who called 911 after being attacked by a group of 12 turkeys. A few particularly aggressive birds have become infamous, like Gerald the turkey of Oakland, California, who attacked over 100 people in a year before being relocated.

  • Some places have bans on feeding turkeys, as this is seen to be a catalyst for incidents. Other commonly given guidance is to clap your hands or otherwise be assertive if encountering an aggressive bird.

This is a summary of the article, “How Wild Turkeys’ Rough and Rowdy Ways Are Creating Havoc in US Cities,” published by The Guardian on November 24. The full article can be found on

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