A growing number of New Jersey residents have been complaining about unpleasant encounters with aggressive wild turkeys. But experts say get used to it, because the Jersey birds are here to stay.

Cate Gillon, Getty Images
Cate Gillon, Getty Images

Wild turkeys can be especially problematic this time of year because it's their mating season, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna says.

"The hormones are surging through them and they can become more aggressive," he said.

"Turkeys establish a pecking order, and they might see you or someone else as impinging on that"pecking order so they will go after you and just kind of chase you."

Hajna says he is not aware of anybody ever being injured by a wild turkey, but he concedes it can be a frightening experience, if it is something that you have never encountered before.

"These are big birds."

The state Division of Fish and Wildlife responds to about 20 to 30 human/wild turkey incidents a year. They get reports of various encounters, including turkeys behaving aggressively toward residents — and in one case, a mailman.

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Several attacks over the years have been caught on tape and uploaded to YouTube.

The state estimates there are roughly 25,000 wild turkeys in New Jersey. There is a hunting season for wild turkeys, and several thousand birds are taken each year during those seasons.

"The bird is pretty firmly established now. There was a time when it was very unusual to see a wild turkey in New Jersey, but it is becoming more common," Hajna said.
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Wild turkeys tend to spend a lot of their time in fields or in wooded areas near residential areas. It is when they leave those areas and go into residential areas or into office parks or onto roadways that they become a problem.

Just like deer or bears, it's best not to leave anything on your property to attract the turkeys. That would include bird feeders, which Hajna recommends people hang high enough to discourage the turkeys. Any spilled seed should be swept away.
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If you come face-to-beak with a wild turkey, Hajna advises to try shouting or waving your arms.

He says you can also swipe at it with a broom or a stick, and more times than not, it will just take off.

If it doesn't, retreat indoors and call the Division of Fish and Wildlife and we will provide further assistance.

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Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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