Wildlife Officials Ask People To Stop Chasing Wild Turkeys After Complaints Roll In

by Jennifer Shea

New Jersey residents have a problem. The wild turkey population in their state has grown to more than 20,000 turkeys.

Why is that a problem? Well, wild turkeys can have what even wildlife advocates call “strong personalities.” They occasionally get aggressive toward humans. And as the turkey population expands into human neighborhoods, they’re forcing some humans to chase them away from human property.

Now wildlife experts are asking people to please not chase the turkeys. They recommend giving them a wide berth and, if one approaches, establishing dominance by stomping the ground or yelling, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Birds Should Be Observed ‘From a Safe Distance’

Susan Russell of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey claims turkeys get a “bum rap.” She told the press the animals are actually quite beautiful. And they only sometimes assert themselves around humans.

“They’re very unusual birds in that that have very strong personalities,” Russell said. “They’re very hierarchal. And they’re extremely aware of their hierarchy. If you see a turkey and it’s not friendly to you, somehow establish, without hurting the bird, that you’re higher on the totem pole than he is or she is by hitting the ground with a broom or yelling. Something like that.”

Still, wildlife officials stressed that under no circumstances should humans approach a wild turkey. Wildlife officials have occasionally relocated turkey populations. But annoyed residents shouldn’t count on sending every stray turkey to a new location.

“Turkeys should be treated like all wildlife — observe and enjoy them from a distance,” a spokesperson for the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife told the Press. “Turkeys, like any wildlife species, are not relocated unless they pose a threat to human health and safety.”

New Jerseyites Report Run-Ins with Wild Turkeys

In 2019, residents of the Toms River area of New Jersey began complaining about the out-of-control turkey population there. Professional baseball player Todd Frazier was one of the complainants.

“They have come close to harming my family and friends, ruined my cars, trashed my yard and much more,” Frazier once tweeted.

It’s not clear what happened to the turkeys after officials relocated them. The New Jersey DFW said it does not disclose “the location of translocated wildlife and is not tracking the relocated turkeys.”

Yet the following year, the state got 134 complaints about wild turkeys. That was a significant increase over 2019. A DFW spokesperson told the Asbury Park Press that they blame the increase on the fact that more people stayed home during the COVID-19 pandemic and so had more time to observe the turkeys.

These days, Middletown resident and comedian Vinnie Brand frequently sees the brazen birds around his property. And he says the turkeys he’s run into have no fear of humans.

“You should not chase a turkey,” Brand said. “Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird because turkeys are not wimpy. If you’re going to attack a turkey, it’s going to come right back at you.”