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April 3, 2007

Turkeys looking for love in all the wrong places

SALEM, Mass. — Sure, eating turkey will make you sleepy, but seeing one should make you act crazy.

The colorful wild fowl on your lawn, front step or automobile might seem like a welcome distraction, but the feathered visitors have actually become something of a nuisance and, in some cases, a threat to North Shore homeowners, according to Massachusetts wildlife experts.

That’s because turkeys are especially aggressive this month as hormones drive them to seek a mate. However, as those who’ve endured a menacing, late-night subway wait, it pays to act a little crazy.

“Be a raving maniac out there,” advises Marion Larson, information and education biologist with MassWildlife. “(Turkeys) should run or fly off. I was doing it a few times this winter. I want them to be aware of me and other people.”

Turkeys will show their aggressive side this time of year and try to exert their dominance over other turkeys — real ones as well as their own reflection.

But animal lovers beware: playing nice and feeding turkeys could make turkeys think you are ... well, a turkey.

“It’s great to watch turkeys, it’s fun to see them, but our behavior will also influence their behavior,” Larson said. “If they don’t see people as a threat, (turkeys) could switch to thinking people are turkeys and they will run after people and peck at people. They need to put you in the pecking order, too. It happens every year.”

Marblehead police said they’ve responded to a number of calls from residents trapped inside their cars.

“Love is in the air,” quipped Detective Sgt. Marion Keating, “so we’ve been chasing turkeys all week.”

Marblehead police had two turkey calls Sunday — a Victoria Lane resident reported a wild turkey roaming the property, and a resident on Leggs Hill Road reported one blocking the driveway.

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