Angry wild turkeys: The terror begins

By Tom Poland

In a Dave Barry moment, an alert reader sent me quite a story.

Wild turkeys have gone on the rampage down Florida way. I’ve been expecting this. The wild turkey descends from Tyrannosaurus rex, so what you are about to read should not surprise you.

The story begins: “Florida is known for its dangerous wildlife, such as gators and snakes, and for a Central Florida senior community, they’re dealing with animal concerns too — angry wild turkeys. Wild turkeys terrorized a Central Florida senior community this spring, charging octogenarians using walkers, chasing golf carts and cornering residents in their garages, according to resident accounts of the months-long bird assault.”

And then the story takes on a darker mood saying the harassment turned deadly serious in March. Two turk-a-lurks put a resident of a 120-home neighborhood in their crossfeathers and galloped after the hapless soul.

Now this is no joke. The old fellow began vamoosing when he fell and broke his hip. The turkeys smelled blood. “The turkey’s razor-sharp talons caused significant blood loss that, combined with the hip injury, left the man in the hospital for three months, said the vice president of the homeowners association.”

Then this spokesman said something that doesn’t surprise those who know T. rex is the granddad to wild turkeys. “Having a turkey run up to you when you are getting out of your car is frightening.”

Yes, it is. Brings to mind the homeless men who rush up to your car in parking lots. That’s when you simply turn the key and get out of Dodge. The story goes on saying menacing turkeys patrolling front yards kept people from leaving their homes.

“Honey, you go get the mail.”

“You got to be kidding me. You go get the mail.”

“Forgetabout it,” says the old fellow.

Then the husband and wife crack a window and shout, “Hey, turkeys, get outta here. Leave us alone already.”

Thank God for government in times of terror. Florida Fish and Wild Game Commission officers went to the community to educate the spokesman on trapping or killing the bully turkeys that were making residents cower in their homes. Turns out there wasn’t much they could do. And so the terror got worse.

The simple act of walking out to the car turned into a track meet. Residents have to run like Forrest Gump into their homes and cars as marauding turkeys approach. In a scene worthy of “Caddyshack,” the wild birds chased and attacked people in golf carts.

But all is not gloom and doom. An unexpected ally came to the residents’ rescue. Read on and breathe a sigh of relief. “A Chihuahua on a nearby street is said to be the only thing the turkeys fear and when he runs after them, turkeys leave the area.”

Conjure up a scene in which one tiny hairless dog scares the wits out of a dozen well-feathered small dinosaurs. I am pretty sure that local pet shops sold out of Chihuahuas the next day, but only if the dogs could be bought online and delivered.

Florida Wild Game officials advised the residents to haze the turkeys, asking if any former fraternity members live in the community. A few feeble hands went up.

The Game officials gave them tips on how to chase the turkeys, waving their arms and clapping their hands kind of like in a TV evangelist meeting. Officials advised spraying the birds with a hose, too.

The best tactic, however, scares me. Opening a large umbrella while facing the turkeys. Makes me think of all the times I’ve tried to open an umbrella in a driving rainstorm. Usually my umbrella turns inside out and I run for it!

The spokesman brings reality to the situation. “The thing about our residents trying to haze them with an umbrella or garden hose is they can’t just run around the corner to get their hose when they’re using canes and walkers, so it’s more difficult for us to deal with.”

Well, there’s no arguing with that. “We are talking about a life or death situation,” said one resident. “My kids raised turkeys for 4-H projects. They can be vicious.” The kids or turkeys?

What to do, what to do. Here’s a thought. Quit feeding wild turkeys. Stay inside and sip some Wild Turkey instead. Plan a Thanksgiving assault the likes of D-Day.

“There is a suspicion someone was feeding the turkeys, which can make them lose their natural fear of people and cause them to act aggressively,” said the story. Bingo. Don’t train a 20-pound wild bird with powerful wings and sharp spurs to see you as a meal ticket. Hmmm, might be a lesson there.

Yes, the terror begins. All those poor residents need now is some good old South Georgia boy to hide in some shrubs and work his turkey call when those poor folks finally venture outside. I expect some will set track records. Heck, some may even catch the eye of Coach Mullen’s recruiting staff.

The terror, the terror. Good luck to those folks down Florida way.

Author: Rachel Howell

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