Turkeys aren’t just for Thanksgiving dinners. They are also an “important natural resource” for the Commonwealth, according to the Massachusetts state website.
Although they may be common across the state, they are not always well known. Here are a few facts to devour.
What is a baby turkey called?
A baby turkey is called a poult and they are active as soon as they hatch.
“Predators like foxes and hawks can eat a few young turkeys, and cold spring rains can easily chill the poorly feathered young. Young turkeys stay with their mother for at least four to five months,” MassWildlife wrote on its website. “Turkeys learn from each other, often through imitation, and from interacting with older, more experienced birds. They remember the layout of their living areas and the location of various foods.”
Earlier this year, Massachusetts residents will be asked to record and report sightings of chicks and other turkeys to the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. These included chickens, which are female turkeys; jakes or juvenile males; and toms, which are adult male turkeys.
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What sounds do turkeys make?
Turkeys don’t just eat.
In fact, according to Smithsonian Magazine, male turkeys only eat to announce themselves to females. Other sounds turkeys make include “purr,” “yelp,” and “kee-kees,” the magazine reported.
Listen to their sounds here.
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How big are turkeys?
According to the Massachusetts state website, male turkeys weigh around 16 to 25 pounds. However, female turkeys are smaller, weighing around 9 to 12 pounds.
Are turkeys aggressive?
Yes, turkeys can be aggressive. But the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said don’t let that intimidate you.
“You should threaten or frighten brave turkeys with a hose, a leashed dog, or loud noises,” suggested the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
What to do if I see a turkey?
Turkeys are everywhere in Massachusetts, and many turkey sightings don’t lead to much action.
“Keep wildlife wild,” states the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife website, adding that avoid feeding or interacting with them if possible.
However, if a turkey is aggressive, “don’t hesitate to startle or threaten it,” the organization suggests.
“Once bold behavior is established, it can be very difficult to change,” the website reads. “Don’t hesitate to startle or threaten a brave, aggressive turkey with loud noises, slapping with a broom, or spraying water from a hose. A leashed dog is also an effective deterrent.”
What about the hunt?
A number of licenses, permits, and decals available on MassFishHunt are required for those wishing to hunt wild turkey.
Archery equipment, shotguns and muzzleloaders may be used for turkey hunting in zones 1-9 from October 17th to November 26th. Archery follows the same rules as deer, including no airbags and the crossbow allowance for people with disabilities. Those using a shotgun may use no larger than a 10 gauge or larger than a No. 4 shotgun size. Hunters using muzzleloaders must be no larger than a .775 caliber muzzle-loading smoothbore shotgun and no larger than a #4 size buckshot.
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Turkey hunters are permitted one turkey of either sex during this time and turkey hunters are also required to wear a bright orange hat in the above stocked areas.
The organization also asked residents to help report sightings. However, that ended on August 31st.
How many live in Massachusetts?
According to the Massachusetts state website, there are about 35,000 wild turkeys in Massachusetts, although they were once eradicated from the state.
They were widespread in the Commonwealth before European colonization, the website says. By 1851, the last known native bird was killed.
More than 100 years later, biologists have caught 37 turkeys in New York and released them in the Berkshires, the website explains.
“The new flock grew in an ideal mix of agricultural and wooded land, and in the fall of 1978 the estimated population was about 1,000 birds,” the website states. “As more and more birds moved in from neighboring states, turkeys soon spread to most of Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River.”
Numbers continued to increase, and in 1991 the wild turkey was designated the state’s official game bird.
“Wild turkeys are an important natural resource in Massachusetts,” the website states.