MassWildlife warns of turkey encounters

Wild turkeys had the run of Pudding Brook Drive in Pembroke.
Debee Tlumacki for the Boston Globe/File
Wild turkeys had the run of Pudding Brook Drive in Pembroke.

Apparently, turkey hunting season works both ways.

As hunters gear up to take on the noisy birds for sport this month, the state is warning the general public that flocks of turkeys have been particularly aggressive lately, going after humans that they view as low in the pecking order.

The Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, or MassWildlife, issued a notice last week urging constituents to remain vigilant, and employ certain safety measures in the event of an encounter.


The e-mail was sent following “recent inquiries and reports from the public about turkeys acting aggressively towards people and pets,” officials said.

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“March through May is breeding season for wild turkeys, which means some turkeys may be seen acting aggressively or completely ignoring the presence of people,” MassWildlife explained. “Males will puff out their feathers, fan their tails, and ‘strut their stuff.’”

Officials said the best way to scare off or threaten a bold turkey is to make loud noises, or, if possible, spray the birds with water from a hose. If a person has a canine sidekick, that may also be “an effective deterrent.”

“Turkeys may attempt to dominate or attack people that they view as subordinates,” the e-mail said. “And this behavior is observed most often during breeding season.”

Run-ins with the boisterous birds have often been a problem in both urban and suburban settings.


At times, Brookline has been overrun with turkeys that have had no problem charging up to people in acts of aggression.

And in Foxborough last year, a gang of wild turkeys ran amok, terrorizing area residents.

Turkeys have some other odd behaviors, too. For example, they’re known to go after their own reflections. If a bird sees itself in a shiny object, like a car, hub cap, or car mirror, they view it as an intruding turkey, the state said.

While in that instance humans aren’t the target, it can still spell certain doom for a person’s property. As the birds peck away with their beaks, they can leave dings and dents behind.

“They will often continually attack the reflection until changing light conditions cause it to vanish,” according to wildlife officials. “If a turkey is pecking at a shiny object, cover or disguise the object.”


Of course, there are those who actually want to attract the birds, rather than scare them away.

Licensed wild turkey hunting is permitted in parts of Massachusetts twice per year, in the spring and fall.

The spring season runs from Monday, April 24, to May 20, and coincides with the turkey mating season.

Earlier this month, the state held a class to teach interested hunters how to use various turkey-calling devices, to improve their chances of bagging a few birds. Dozens of people attended.

“We want to make both hunters and potential hunters aware of Wild Turkey Hunting Season because it is a great recreational activity for individuals and families,” said Jack Buckley, director of MassWildlife, in a statement.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.