The New Jersey of the mid-1800s was bereft of a certain large black fowl. Hunting and changes of habitat had killed off virtually all the state’s Thanksgiving staple, and turkeys remained absent for more than a century.
Everything changed in 1977. That was when a chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation released 22 of the wild birds into the region, giving birth to a turkey renaissance.
Fast forward a few decades, and life without turkeys in the Garden State is now but a page in the history books. For the residents of Teaneck township, it is but the stuff of dreams.
The turkeys are everywhere, and the people are afraid.
According to NorthJersey.com, there have been a dozen complaints from locals of aggressive wild turkeys this year, as well as one police report. The perpetrators included turkeys who attacked residents, pecked at cars and stalled traffic.
Courtney Lopchinsky, a mother of three, had an encounter in January that left her shaken.
She and her children were sitting at their kitchen table when a turkey flew straight into their home, shattering a window and landing in a bloody, feathered clump before them.
Glass was flying, Lopchinsky told NBC New York. “We were covered in glass, the bird was freaking out, the turkey was throwing his wings.”
Each time the turkey spread his wings, more glass would fall. Lopchinsky called 911, and ran out of the house with her children.
To this day, the turkey’s talon prints are still visible on her dining room table.
“I hear it sometimes at night, that loud noise of the turkey breaking through the glass,” Lopchinsky told NBC. It was an occasion in which she wondered: “Is this the time when life is going to change in a moment?”
She and other Teaneck residents aired their grievances at Tuesday’s township meeting, where officials were present to discuss how best to cope with the birds.
Earlier that day, Amy Schweitzer of the Department of Environmental Protection captured a “tom,” a large male turkey that instigates aggressive behavior, NJ.com reported. He will be euthanized.
“Hopefully this will help a lot,” Schweitzer told residents.
Because the animals are protected, they cannot be handled by local police and animal control officers. Vincent Acolese, an animal control officer, said he will donate 20 air horns that residents can use to scare turkeys — a form of “humane harassment.”
“We have to coexist as best as possible,” Acolese told NorthJersey.com.
But some residents thought that was impractical. “We don’t all walk around with a horn or a garden hose to spray at the turkeys,” Ronda Weinberg told NJ.com.
A similar scourge has beset the town of Hillsdale, N.J., where a flock of turkeys surrounded a mail carrier and prevented him from leaving his truck one morning in February.
Mail delivery to three homes was interrupted, and police had to come to the carrier’s rescue after the local postmaster called for help, ABC-7 reported.
“The safety of our employees is a top priority,” the U.S. Postal Service said in a statement. “We are treating this incident like any other animal attack and will resume delivery to these three homes when we can assure the safety of our employee.”
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