Turkey Mating Season

Wild turkeys forage in the snow-covered woods at the UW Arboretum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during winter on Dec. 29, 2007. ©UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067 Photo by: Jeff Miller Date: 12/07 File#: D200 digital camera frame 5311

It is coming to that time of the year when turkey mating season will begin. Wisconsin’s wild turkeys have their mating season, lasting several weeks. It is during this mating season the turkeys may become aggressive.

Why They become Aggressive

David Drake, a University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife expert, explained it with just one phrase: Love is in the air.

“When you’re a male and you’ve got hormones surging through your body and it’s time to [mate], you get a little crazy,” Drake said. “And that’s exactly what’s going on with turkeys.”

It turns out tom turkeys are just looking for a little love; it’s mating season, and these turkeys are going crazy for just about anything.

“The hormones are surging through, especially the male or tom’s bodies right now, and they kind of divide the world into, ‘Are you dominant or subordinate to me, and can I breed you?’ ” Drake said.

What You Should Do

Drake said a tom turkey really can’t hurt a person too badly — it will peck at a person and try to be dominant, but that’s their nature.

Drake said if a person finds him or herself confronted with an angry turkey, just be big and loud to try to scare it off. He said it’s probably not best to try to outrun a turkey as they can run or fly upwards of 25 mph.

“If you can just hold your ground and be more aggressive than the turkey, you’ll be in pretty good shape,” Drake said.

How to Do This

Adult humans may drive off or deter these aggressive birds with bold action by forcefully fending them off with brooms or other non-injurious implements. Make yourself large and loud; yell or blow a whistle, swing a coat or bag or umbrella in front of you.

It is also important to not feed the turkeys, this makes them unafraid of humans and may even follow you wanting food. Feeding the turkeys causes them to be dependent on, and attempt to interact more, with our residents.

For 11 months of the year the turkeys are a problem-free part of the community. However, for a few weeks during mating season each spring the turkeys can be a bit unruly. Be sure to let me or the community center know if you have any questions.