GLOUCESTER CITY NJ-A rafter of turkeys were walking in the area of Cold Springs Drive and Thompson Avenue recently. The turkey population on the east side of Gloucester City and nearby Brooklawn continues to grow each year. We counted 14 turkeys on this particular day. It is hard to tell whether these were males or females.
Turkeys started showing up in Gloucester City around 2008 or there about. CNBNews first posted some photos of turkeys sitting on the roof of a Maple Avenue home in Cypress Gardens. Last year we had a photo of turkeys strutting across Nicholson Road. They have also been seen on the approach to Route 676, and in nearby Brooklawn on Lake Avenue and on Sixth Street.
A South Jersey tom turkey, photo credit Gary Devine trail camera
This reporter remembers being one of many hunters who donated money back in
the late 1960's early 1970's to help the State's Turkey Restoration Project. Today that project represents one of the greatest wildlife management success stories in the history of the state. By the mid-1800s, turkeys had disappeared in New Jersey due to habitat changes and killing for food. Division biologists, in cooperation with the NJ Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, reintroduced wild turkeys in 1977 with the release of 22 birds. In 1979 biologists and technicians began to live-trap and re-locate birds to establish populations throughout the state. By 1981 the population was able to support a spring hunting season, and in December, 1997, a limited fall season was initiated.
There is now an abundance of wild turkeys throughout the state with turkeys found wherever there is suitable habitat. Even in South Jersey, where wild turkeys had been struggling just a few years ago, intensive restoration efforts have improved population numbers significantly. The population is estimated at 20,000 - 23,000 with an annual harvest of more than 3,000.
Last year about this time some Sherwood Avenue residents in Gloucester City complained to CNBNews about the turkeys in their neighborhood being aggressive. One resident said , "the turkeys are attacking people and damaging vehicles with their pecking. The eight baby turkeys that were born in the spring are now as big as the adults. Some of my neighbors are afraid to go outside for fear of being injured by the birds.”
Bob Eriksen who is affiliated with the NJ Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation was asked at the time what to do about these aggressive birds.
"There are two possible explanations for the wild turkey behavior you describe. One is that the birds in question were raised in captivity where they imprinted on humans and consequently have no fear of people. Imprinted birds actually see humans as members of their own species and will actively try to exert their influence over them as they attempt to establish a pecking order. The second possible origin is that this flock of turkeys are "urban wild turkeys". As wild turkeys expand their range and follow wooded corridors such as stream edges into residential areas they can become more and more accustomed to seeing people. Often wild turkeys in such areas are fed by well-meaning people. Provisioning tames the birds down, causes them to begin to view humans as a food source and after a generation or two allow close approaches by people. During the spring breeding season and in the early fall when daylight hours are similar such "habituated" wild turkeys may become aggressive. Males are much more prone to this than hens.
"Homeowners should not feed wild turkeys. Nor should they encourage them to become tame. Instead if wild turkeys move into residential areas they should be discouraged from overstaying their welcome by harassment. People can chase the birds, spray them with garden hoses or place dogs in the yard confined by an invisible fence or long lead so that they can harass the birds.
"If the birds truly are acting aggressively homeowners should call the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. The Division is the state agency with the authority over all wildlife species. The Wildlife Control Unit at 908-735-8793 can provide and if necessary provide assistance."