Wild turkey population exploding in Massachusetts

The state that hosted the country’s first Thanksgiving meal is now dealing with a growing wild turkey population. 

According to the state’s wildlife officials, there were about 1,000 birds in 1978. Today, the population is estimated between 30,000 and 35,000 birds.

State officials say wild turkeys are "an important natural resource in Massachusetts." They are classified as game birds in which hunting seasons have been established. 

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Aynsley Floyd, a local filmmaker and photographer, is taking a look at the population boom in her latest documentary "Turkey Town," weighing the benefits and consequences of having the birds. 

"I grew up in Massachusetts and I don't remember ever seeing a turkey in the ’70s and ’80s," Floyd said on Boston Public Radio. "So that piqued my interest and I did some research on the topic and it turns out that the resurgence of turkeys in the area is a really interesting conservation success story."

Wild turkeys have "black to blackish-bronze with white wing bars, blackish-brown tail feathers and a blueish-gray to red head," according to wildlife officials. Male wild turkeys are called "Toms" while females are called "hens." 

The birds are active during the day, staying in large trees at night to avoid predators. 

But they can be a bit of a nuisance. 

Turkeys in the wild are far stronger and faster than the ones that land on Thanksgiving tables, experts say. Males in particular are driven to show physical aggression as a way to climb the social pecking order, and they sometimes view humans as potential competitors.

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Complaints about troublesome turkeys have surged in Boston and its suburbs over the past several years, causing headaches for police and health officials called to handle problems.

Often the grievance is little more than a wayward turkey blocking traffic, but in some cases turkeys became so aggressive that police said they had to shoot them as a matter of public safety. Some area residents have suffered minor injuries from the birds, including a 72-year-old woman who told police she was bruised after a gang of turkeys scratched and pecked her during a walk.

Wildlife experts say much of the problem can be blamed on residents who leave out food for turkeys, which entices flocks to settle in and helps them survive winters.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.