09 August 2006

Turkeys Are Smarter Than We Think

Over the last few years, I have been hearing more and more stories from my parents about the presence of wild turkeys in the suburbs of Boston. Recently, driving the interstate in Massachusetts, I sighted two wild turkeys standing in the breakdown lane, gobbling happily and confusing motorists.

When I told my father about this, he told me the story of Tim Hoban, a local postal carrier who was unable to deliver mail along his route because he was being attacked by a four-foot tall wild turkey.

Apparently Mr. Hoban tried to complete his route by varying the order in which he visited houses, and by trying to sneak to the back doors of the residences on his route. No matter how devious he got, the turkey was there waiting to fly at him and chase him into traffic. He seemed to be the only person who experienced turkey attacks. His supervisors, after seeing an altercation for themselves, finally suspended mail delivery on Hoban's route and called in a specialist from the Audubon society.

The bird expert observed the interactions between the turkey and the mail carrier, and submitted his recommendation: tell the neighborhood to stop feeding the turkey.

The residents of the neighborhood had been feeding the turkey for some time, and the huge bird, whom they called "George", spent his time going from house to house looking for treats. The only other creature who exhibited this behavior was, you guessed it, the postal carrier. George perceived poor Mr. Hoban as a threat to his food source, and mounted an effective defense.

(I did actually research this - it happened in March of 2001. Recent postings on blogs suggest that the turkey problem was brought under control in the winter/spring of this year by coyotes prowling the area. Apparently when they are not hunting turkeys, they like to hang out at the mall.)

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