As Turkeys Become More Common, Rivalries Begin and Friendships Blossom

The line in the sand was the center of the street in Woodlawn – where the City Line between Everett and Malden stands and the rivalry between the two cities has its beginnings.

Last month, on the Everett side stood Tom and his friends from Everett.

On the other side of the line stood Kevin and his band of Malden buddies.

Each dared the other to cross the line, just ready for a vicious squabble.

The standoff lasted a good 20 minutes and no one dared cross the line. Eventually Tom gobbled loudly and then pecked at the ground as he strode off with his merry band of gobblers.

Yes, we are talking about turkeys, but in this world where turkeys have become much more prevalent, even in the cities like Everett and Malden, there are Everett turkeys and there are Malden turkeys – and like the humans in those places, they don’t mix.

“We have the Malden turkeys and the Everett turkeys and sometimes they hang out,” said Everett Animal Control Officer Stacia Gorgone. “But really they are territorial because the Everett turkeys don’t like the Malden turkeys to come into their territory. It will be a Saturday afternoon they’ll have a standoff in the middle of the street on the City Line. They won’t go into each other’s territory, but they’re out there like they’re daring each other, standing their ground. It’s like ‘The Outsiders’ movie or something.”

Thanksgiving is a time to think about turkeys, particularly cooked ones, but more and more as the birds populate the region in larger numbers, it becomes a little easier to understand why those at the first Thanksgiving chose the birds – which thrive in the New England environment. ACO Gorgone and nearly every ACO in the region has increasingly had to deal with the turkeys over the last five years as more and more wild turkeys roam the streets of Everett in packs. Mass Audubon indicated that the wild turkey had been plentiful in New England at one time, but disappeared from the area by 1850. It stayed gone for 180 years until it began a comeback in recent years. That was bolstered by a conservation effort that began in earnest in the 1970s when turkeys from New York’s Adirondack Mountains were transplanted to the Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts. Since that time, they’ve spread out.

Gorgone said she has named the leader of the pack in Glenwood Cemetery Tom the Turkey, whom she named. Her counterpart in Malden has named the leader of the turkey pack there, Kevin. In Everett, Tom and his crew roam around the cemetery and the surrounding streets – sometimes making trouble, but mostly foraging. At first, many were excited to see a strange site like turkeys in the neighborhoods, but now they have become common enough to be like any other wild animal.

Gorgone said Everett’s turkeys are fairly mild, but people should be careful of them as they are not pets. She said what went from rarely seeing a turkey when she started has now come to daily visits with Tom in the cemetery to check on the pack and make sure they are safe and staying away from funerals.

“Tom is just a crazy turkey,” she said. “Who would have thought turkeys would roam around in the middle of Everett? It’s going to get worse. You wouldn’t think an ACO in the city would deal with turkeys. Hopefully we don’t have any attacks. How do you quarantine a turkey? If a dog attacks someone, we catch it and quarantine it. You can’t catch a turkey. They fly away and you don’t know where they go.”

Gorgone began getting involved with the turkey population in Everett a few years ago when reports of turkeys on Hospital Hill began to surface. Later, Tom and his crew became regular problems at Glenwood Cemetery.

“They are happy at Glenwood, but there were problems because at first there were funerals and they were attacking the people at the funerals,” said Gorgone. “What happens is there are really great people who love animals and they feed them. Once that happens, the turkeys won’t leave the area.”

So it is, among the calls for traditional wildlife and dogs and cats, Gorgone keeps tabs on the local turkeys now too. She said they can be cute, as Tom now knows her and recognizes her car when she drives in to check on them. However, she said, they are also dangerous, wild animals, and cited attacks at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Somerville recently.

“Honestly, all of the wildlife are getting too used to humans,” she said. “A turkey would have run away from me years ago. Now, I pull up and the turkey knows me. You would think it’s like my dog greeting me at home. Tom knows the sound of my vehicle. He’ll come running from one side of the cemetery to get to me, and they are fast. They’ve become conditioned and used to people. You can’t wrestle down a turkey and you also by law cannot relocate it either.”

That is one of the most common misconceptions Gorgone is faced with – people wanting her to get rid of the birds. In fact, they cannot be relocated unless there is proven immediate danger to the animal. That was the case in Revere a few years ago when “Jake” the turkey decided his home would be in the middle of the most dangerous intersection in Revere. After several months of being there, stopping traffic and causing many near-accidents – the state allowed him to be re-located to Carver, Mass. (no pun intended there). That is a long and involved process, however, and none of the turkeys in Everett are in danger or are harming anyone to this point.

“The best thing is to just let them be and they’ll move on,” she said. “People want to help. They want to get close to them, or try to move them. I didn’t know the danger at first either, but you have to be careful. They’ve huge and they can be vicious.”

As for the Everett/Malden rivalry, Gorgone laughed and said maybe this year the Thanksgiving Football game can be replaced by a cross-town turkey standoff – keeping the rivalry going and having some fun too.

“Yea, it is just like the Everett/Malden football game,” she laughed. “I can say I think the Everett turkeys have been winning so far from what I can tell.”

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