Wild Turkeys Visit PA Campus

Two wild turkeys decided to join the newly admitted students on the tour of Phillips Academy’s campus. The turkeys were seen pecking underneath the large, centuries-old elm tree to the left of Day Hall during the morning of Friday, April 4. “This was the first time I saw turkeys on campus,” said Thomas Hodgson, Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, but he said that turkeys have been seen near Rabbit Pond in the past. According to Thomas Cone, Instructor in Biology, the turkeys were probably American Bronze turkeys, which can weigh up to 70 pounds. Hodgson said that turkeys did not reside in New England until 25 years ago because they lost their habitat due to deforestation for lumber and charcoal. Now that forests are being restored, the wild turkey population is making a comeback on the East Coast after first reappearing in North Carolina, he said. A turkey’s main predators are coyotes, dogs and fishers, which are members of the mink family. “When I first came [to Andover], dogs were running loose,” said Cone. Because of stricter laws that require dogs to be leashed, the turkeys have lost one of their main predators. The turkey population is predicted to continue rising because of their newly-regained habitat and a lack of predators, but Cone said “the natural balance is a little higher than we may like.” He said that nature would keep everything in check and keep the turkey population from growing too large for the environment to support. According to Cone, turkeys feed on seeds in open fields during the day, but to protect themselves from predators at night, they sleep in trees. Although turkeys do not seem like the most adept fliers, they can fly up to 50 or 60 feet. Wild turkeys are much more intelligent than domesticated turkeys, which are known to die by standing outside and drinking rain until they drown, said Hodgson.