On The Ridge: There’s a new crew in town

Published: 4/26/2023 4:02:12 PM
Modified: 4/26/2023 4:00:09 PM

With the first days of the Massachusetts turkey hunting season well underway, stories are pouring in from all over the region regarding early season hunts that went well, some that didn’t go well, and just funny things that always happen early into a hunting season. But the best story thus far, is a non-turkey hunting story that comes out of Cambridge. It happened a few weeks back, when a 49-year-old postal carrier was attacked by an adult gobbler there that resulted in hip replacement surgery. Yes, you read that right! And in true “the mail must go through” fashion, the carrier says he plans to return to the same mail route after recovering.

People are now referring to this band of marauding turkeys as “the Cambridge Crew,” as their terrorizing antics stretch beyond just attacking this poor mail carrier, who by the way is a fella named Ed who’s been working the same Cambridge route — plus or minus a few streets — for more than 20 years. Ed’s never had a significant issue with the local wildlife before, but these guys, he said, flock along Garden Street, and had been staying around that area since March 20. On the day of the attack Ed started hearing noises as he approached the house. Suddenly he realized that the turkeys had spotted him, and that’s when the “the Cambridge Crew” started getting aggressive. As he turned to leave, one of the turkeys was already flying toward him, and the next thing he knew, he was on the ground writhing in pain.

A woman in her seventh month of pregnancy also had bruises all over her legs in another attacked by an earlier version of “the Cambridge Crew” back in 2019, when she was attacked twice in the same week. Now four years later, she's still on guard every time she goes for a walk, arming herself with an umbrella for protection. But the real question is, what’s at the core of all these interactions with wild turkeys? And what could we, or MassWildlife, be doing to prevent these conflicts?

Well, I’m certain this question has many answers which would be better served by a wildlife biologist, but common sense would, or should, dictate that we need to work harder as a broader community at allowing wildlife to stay wild. I mean c’mon! The fundamental issue of this always seems to keep circling back to a lot of people having great fun feeding wildlife other than just birds in the winter. And when turkeys locate any regular food source that suits them, of course, they become very aware of it and simply pounce on it at every opportunity.

People love to see this, and the turkeys, so they deliberately feed them to keep the big birds around instead of letting them wander into an area naturally in search of food, then letting them wander back out again, searching for natural food. Turkeys can survive very well on natural foods and simply don’t need handouts from people. Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause turkeys to act tame and may lead to bold or aggressive behavior, especially in the breeding season.

This is exactly what’s been happening in Cambridge along with other urban areas in the entire Boston region, all the way throughout the Cape and into the North Shore. Wild turkeys are going to utilize food sources that are available to them, and they’ll become very territorial at times while doing so. And this is where the breakdown of the human/wildlife barrier always seems to begin. It becomes problematic as wild turkeys become more comfortable when they learn to associate food with people. Then the breeding season starts, which causes dramatic changes in their behavior that potentially can carry over toward humans, instead of being contained within a flock of turkeys. And again, this always has to do with the birds becoming comfortable around humans, which always, ALWAYS relates back to an unnatural food source. And I think this, as long as we allow it to continue, is something we’re going to have to get used to. Not just with wild turkeys, but with other species of wildlife as well, unless we can start preventing these conflicts by controlling food that’s made available on landscapes where wildlife really don’t belong.

In the meantime, it’s been over a month now since the incident with Ed and “the Cambridge Crew.” And recent reports tell us that Ed is up and walking but is using a cane for balance. He’s hoping to be back at work in about six months but will stay on the alert for genus Meleagris. After all, the mail must go through!

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff.


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