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HomenewsOnce Endangered, Wild Turkeys Are Now Thriving in New Jersey and Frightening...

Once Endangered, Wild Turkeys Are Now Thriving in New Jersey and Frightening Local Areas!

They can be found in the backyard. They are atop the roof and at the entrance. You stop the flow of traffic and dash to your vehicle.

The feathered beast making a beeline for your front bumper is a New Jersey wild turkey, a not-so-rare bird that seems to freely wander the nation’s most populous state.

The bird, which to many Garden State residents appears more appetizing on a plate than darting across the front yard, has emerged from the wild in greater numbers in recent years, migrating to the suburbs in its never-ending search for a simple meal.

“Turkeys are a highly adaptive bird that can thrive in a variety of settings,” said Jimmy Sloan, a biologist for the state Department of Environmental Protection who studies upland birds. He said that wild turkeys are widespread in all 21 counties of New Jersey.

This wasn’t always the case. The bird, which is supposed to have been fed at the First Thanksgiving in 1621 by pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, was previously abundant in the United States, but industry and urbanization have eliminated most of its natural habitat over the past 400 years.

In New Jersey, where the wild turkey had all but disappeared by 1977, this habitat loss has been the most severe. In that year, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife released 22 birds into the wild and began an incredibly successful restoration initiative.

There are approximately 21,000 free-roaming turkeys in the state this Thanksgiving, and flocks of the birds frequently appear in areas where they are not necessarily welcome.

On November 21, 2022, a group of wild turkeys walks along an abandoned railroad line that runs between suburban neighborhoods near the Cape May Court House in Cape May County. There are around 21,000 wild turkeys in New Jersey. In 1977, wildlife officials reintroduced wild turkeys after the population had been eradicated. Matt Dowling for NJ.com | NJ Advance Media

Turkeys, like many other birds, are territorial animals who aggressively defend their area. They are huge, congregate in great groups, especially during the winter, and are tough to eradicate.

As with black bears, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates the spring and fall hunting seasons for wild turkeys.

According to state officials, hunters harvested 2,428 wild turkeys in 2022, a little increase from the previous year’s total of 2,328, which was 2,322. Sloan predicted that the state’s population of wild turkeys peaked in 2006 at approximately 23,000 individuals. Since then, the population has decreased marginally and is now constant.

Nonetheless, the search for food will bring turkeys from the woods to the fields of farmers and beyond. Sloan stated that some have found their way to the suburbs to eat on seeded lawns and bird feeders in the backyards of numerous people.

In 2019, wild turkeys caused destruction in Toms River. Todd Frazier, a resident of Toms River who has played third base for the New York Mets and the New York Yankees, among others, tweeted that Governor Phil Murphy should take action.

“Toms River and the Toms River wildlife have stated that they cannot relocate them. That is ludicrous. Frazier tweeted, “You nearly harmed my family and friends, ruined my cars, trashed my yard, and more.”

According to locals, there is still a problem at Holiday City in Toms River despite the removal of several birds by the state.

On November 21, 2022, a group of wild turkeys walks along an abandoned railroad line that runs between suburban neighborhoods near the Cape May Court House in Cape May County. There are around 21,000 wild turkeys in New Jersey. In 1977, wildlife officials reintroduced wild turkeys after the population had been eradicated. Matt Dowling for NJ.com | NJ Advance Media

This fall, Sloan reported that the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to harassment reports from Deptford in Gloucester County, Sicklerville in Camden County, and the Holiday City retirement home, where the population of wild turkeys had quadrupled since 2019.

As far north as Middle Township in Cape May County and as far north as Ridgewood in Bergen County and Garret Mountain in Passaic County, flocks of birds have been spotted.

Because wild turkeys are a controlled species, it is prohibited to poach them. Fish and wildlife officials will capture troublesome birds and release them back into the wild, but only if a bird, such as a turkey, causes substantial property damage. B. devastates the landscape and damages automobiles with their beaks.

“They are constantly present. If they cause no harm, we cannot relocate them. It is the same as a cardinal entering your bird feeder. We wouldn’t relocate a cardinal,” Sloan added.

Alice Agnello, a resident of Holiday City, reported three close encounters with wild turkeys at the Toms River retirement community. The first incident occurred in May when she returned from work and pulled into her driveway.

“As I exited the vehicle, I heard a peculiar sound,” Agnello stated. “I peered in the trunk and observed this turkey. I retrieved my wallet, entered the garage, and pressed the “close” button.

A few weeks later, she was driving Summer, her Chihuahua, to the veterinarian when a large bird darted in front of her vehicle. She applied the brakes and retrieved her phone in order to record the moment on video. A similar incident occurred a few weeks ago when she was driving and a turkey began pecking at her car.

She said, “I don’t know if it’s the same turkey, but these turkeys are insane.”

Agnello reported feeling somewhat intimidated by the encounters. She stated, “He either wanted me or my car.” “I concede that I am a coward. I’m not brave.”

Sloan stated that there was little cause for concern. He stated that turkeys mistake their reflection in the car door’s metal for another male.

He states, “Males are dominant.” “They believe they are seeing another male; therefore, it is time to fight.”

On November 21, 2022, a flock of wild turkeys wanders through a suburban neighborhood in Middle Township, Cape May County. Matt Dowling for NJ.com | NJ Advance Media

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Female turkeys produce between eight and fourteen eggs per year. However, only about sixty percent of the eggs survive the natural predators of the bird. Sloan stated that the turkey’s natural predators in the wild are the fox, the coyote, and the raccoon.

After the eggs hatch in the spring, the females guide the maturation of the chicks. Although they can fly, wild turkeys do not travel very far. Sloan stated that they typically stick to 100 to 2,000 acres.

He stated, “You won’t see that bird fly fifty miles.” Fannie Gray, a resident of Montclair, believes that the same wild turkey has frequented her residence for nearly two years. She said the bird comes and goes.

The Wilde Place residence of Gray is only a few blocks from downtown Montclair and the bustling Bloomfield Avenue.
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Gray has her own theory regarding the range of the bird.

“I believe she is from the reservation,” says Eagle Rock Reservation, a nearby hilltop.

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She said that the turkey returned to her backyard last week, just in time for Thanksgiving, after being absent for approximately four or five months.

Gray stated, “It’s she.'” “I believe it is the same bird. She’s back because she defecated on the porch.”

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