With the region’s wild turkey population booming, wildlife officials are again asking residents to report sightings as the state monitors the population and estimates the fall harvest potential.
Every year from June 1 to Aug. 31, wild turkey reports from the public help MassWildlife biologists determine the population’s reproductive success.
Wildlife officials are looking for wild turkey reports from all regions of Massachusetts — from the most rural communities to more densely-populated areas like Boston and Brookline, where turkeys are now spotted on a regular basis.
“As we’ve seen over the past couple of decades, turkeys are becoming more and more common in suburban areas and now in urban settings,” MassWildlife Turkey Project Leader Dave Scarpitti told the Herald, noting that the turkeys are finding food in these areas.
People can report sightings of hens (female turkeys), poults (newly-hatched turkeys), jakes (juvenile males), and toms (adult males). The state’s survey asks for the sighting date, location and number of turkeys.
“It goes a long way to helping us keep our finger on the pulse of the population and the success of their reproduction,” Scarpitti said.
“We want to get a better idea of what that reproduction looks like for the fall season,” he added. “If there are significant declines in the population, we would want to adjust our harvest regulations.”
The state’s wild turkey population has jumped exponentially since the 1970s when MassWildlife biologists trapped 37 turkeys in New York and released them in the Berkshires. The new flock grew, and by the fall of 1978, the estimated population was about 1,000 birds.
As more birds moved in from neighboring states, turkeys soon ranged throughout most parts of western Massachusetts. Then the wild turkeys continued to expand their range into central, northeastern and southeastern areas of the state — and today, the wild turkey population is estimated at between 30,000 and 35,000 birds.
MassWildlife officials warn people to never deliberately feed wild turkeys, which will attract them to their property and keep them around. Turkeys can survive very well on natural foods, and do not need handouts from people.
Also, if people come across aggressive turkeys, they should not hesitate to scare or threaten a bold turkey with loud noises, spraying water from a hose or swatting with a broom. A dog on a leash is also an effective deterrent.
For more information on the state’s annual wild turkey survey and to report sightings, visit www.mass.gov/info-details/summer-wild-turkey-survey.