Wild-turkey comeback means more human-critter confrontations

As Thanksgiving approaches, we offer this warning: The turkeys are back, and they’re not happy. From its nadir of perhaps 30,000 around 1900, the U.S. wild-turkey population has gobbled all the way up to about 7 million today. But this conservation success story has sharply increased confrontations between territorial wild birds and anxious suburbanites, who share habitat along the fringes of undeveloped lands. The be-wattled birds, which can stand four feet tall and boast a five-foot wingspan, are chasing joggers, harassing backpack-laden school kids, and roosting in trees along traffic-heavy routes. “There’s a point where nature and people can’t live in harmony,” says one mom from Dover, Mass. — anonymously, for fear of retaliation from the town’s bird fans. But though there is “an element of absurdity that keeps [turkeys] out of the adorable deer and bunny category,” says turkey champion and author Hannah Holmes, the gobblers’ return is “still a little awe-inspiring to see.”