The turkeys are back. Through winter, spring and most of summer we were down to one forlorn tom we called “Lonely Pete”. It was hard not to feel sorry for him as he stood on our back hill calling out to his lost companions and receiving no response. That is until a few weeks ago. As I passed by our blueberry patch I noticed a commotion out in the middle of the field and heard the clipped, chirping calls that turkeys make when they are scared.

That night at dinner, our daughter Amelia – who always knows what is happening with the wildlife on the farm well before I do – said, “The turkeys are back, there are eight of them.”

Eight it is, six females and two males, Pete presumably being one of them. Good for him—not so good for us.

By planting the hedgerows and buffer-strips around our fields and working to restore the native grassland on nearly half of our property, we were unknowingly creating a paradise for wild turkeys. The surrounding farms are relatively baron and once the turkeys find their way here they are very reluctant to leave. This would be fine if they were to stay in the grassland and out of our crop fields, but at this time of year, when all of the surrounding vegetation dries up, the succulent vegetable fields beckon and no fence can keep them out.

The classic theory of providing diverse habitats on the farm in the hope of keeping pests in check has proven itself many times on our farm. From the beneficial insects that are drawn to the hedgerows and later move into the fields to feed off of aphids, to the raptors and owls who perch on surrounding trees and feed on voles and gophers. When it comes to the turkeys, however, there really is nothing to keep them in check. We have plenty of coyotes and bobcats here, and one would think that the turkeys would be easy prey, but I’ve never seen any evidence of a kill. Plenty of people have suggested that we should become the top predator which makes a lot of sense—and with Thanksgiving coming up, who knows?

We haven’t quite brought ourselves to that point, however, and at present I’ve resorted to scaring them out of the field with pyrotechnic bird whistlers. It’s something I do with reluctance. Most of the people in rural areas around here hold turkey in disdain and it’s hard to blame them. But in many ways, I find them fascinating. The avian/dinosaur link is not at all hard to imagine when you are running them out of the field. Jogging along on their powerful legs with their head bobbing in and out, they are the velociraptor to my protoceratops. It would be nice to think that we could co-exist, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. It’s sad to think that when I drive them off our property, the neighbor will probably do the same—they are nomads that nobody seems happy to see. At the end of the day, however, I have to make a living. A protoceratops has to do what a protoceratops has to do.

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