Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Turkeys Gone Wild – In My Backyard!

2018 has been a difficult year for me.  I had to suffer through a nasty case of influenza.  I had to grieve for a beloved pet. And now I have a severe wild turkey problem.  No, I’m not an alcoholic – the other issues did not drive me to drink.  Yes, I mean a conflict with actual wild turkeys.

As you can see from this photo, a wild turkey is on my deck, peering into my

house, and he is not happy. This would not be unusual if I lived in the country, but I live in the preppie suburbs. However, there are wooded areas nearby, including next to the back of my property, so some of my neighbors are not preppies, but varmints.   

But why is this turkey on my deck and what is he upset about?  Well, of course I will explain, but let me state up front that I am totally innocent of any wrong doing because ….

I Blame The Squirrels

I have fed the squirrels during the winter for many years.  Some of my friends think I’m nuts (hey, hey) for doing this. But my father’s love for animals, spawned by growing up in the woods of Pennsylvania, was at least partially passed down to his son.  We have five bird feeders that the squirrels can’t access, the main bird feeder being protected by a baffle. We also have two squirrel feeding stations, a bowl on the deck and a converted plastic bird bath. I provide the two stations so the squirrels won’t fight so much over the food.

However, this year there are a bumper crop of young squirrels.  There must have been an excessive amount of unbridled squirrel sex taking place in that woods.  Call it fifty shades of gray squirrels.  Often there are several hungry squirrels arriving at the same time.  So, in addition to the feeders I started scattering a significant amount of sunflower seeds on the ground.

Now I know it is expensive to buy all this seed, but I work at home so watching the squirrels and birds serves as entertainment and a stress reducer.  And by
We are the squirrels - We are the people
providing more food, I greatly reduced the number of squirrel fights.  One time, there were eleven squirrels by the feeders, all having breakfast in peace. And it was a diverse group of gray, brown and black squirrels. If squirrels awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, I would be sure to win it. 

The Turkeys Arrive

A few years ago, I thought it was really neat when I spotted a couple of wild turkeys in my yard. The next year there were a few more, and last year there was a large rafter roaming the neighborhood.  Yes, a rafter.  That is the Associated Press’ approved term for a group of turkeys. 

(I know you may disagree with this term.  There are many names used for a group of turkeys, depending on where you live.  Somehow the U.S. Bureau of Standards never established an official turkey group name, so now people actually spend time arguing about this on the Internet. But if you don’t like the term rafter, please don’t contact me.  Call the Associated Press at 1-877-836-9477 and be sure to tell them you are calling to argue about turkey names. I’m sure they will tell you where to go.)

I was even amused last year when a few of the turkeys stopped by to munch on some seeds by the bird feeder.  However, this year the entire rafter of 13
turkeys or so, was frequently devouring all the seeds I had
Lunch Time!
put out for the 
squirrels. They even fly up on the deck rail and clean out the seeds in the bowl.

This is an outrage! How dare the turkeys eat the squirrel food! This is totally unacceptable! And filling five bird feeders and feeding a bunch of hungry squirrels is already very expensive. I had reach my limit, so I started aggressively chasing the turkeys away from the feeder and out of my yard.

Since I was battling against wild turkeys, I began to study their behavior.  I tried to figure them out. Who was going to prevail in this conflict? Turkeys are supposed to be very intelligent animals, but surely, I am much smarter, right?

I noticed that the more I chased the turkeys away, the more they seemed to want my food. Of course, this torqued me off.  I attributed this to the “Garden of Eden” effect.  I was keeper of the forbidden fruit and that just made the turkeys want it more. I naturally assumed that the turkeys were evil, because like humans they apparently had a sinful nature.  When I chased the turkeys away from the feeder, they would scamper to the back of my property and then stop and stare at me.  They weren’t really afraid of me, and often they would soon return to devour more seeds.

In response, one Saturday I began chasing the turkeys all the way to the back of my property and into the woods. I recorded a video of it with me yelling “Go turkeys!  Get away turkeys!”  It was a hit on Facebook, but incredibly did not go viral.  The video clearly proved I was smarter and superior to those stupid birds.

However, the next morning I was startled because my back yard was literally full of turkeys. The regular rafter was there, but there were two additional rafters. I guess you could say there were turkeys to the rafters.  There were freakin’ turkeys everywhere!  If Alfred Hitchcock had made a Thanksgiving horror movie, I’m sure this is what it would look like. I counted 36 turkeys, but may have missed a couple. Now I have no proof of this since I didn’t get a picture.  My family wonders if I was seeing too many wild turkeys or drinking too much Wild Turkey. (You be the judge). This also means there had been a lot of wild turkey sex going on in the brush. This is a case of “Turkeys Gone Wild”.  I’m telling you, those woods are wanton.

I reasoned that these, wild, evil turkeys had gotten peeved at me for chasing them into the woods the day before and had called in the other neighborhood turkeys as a show of force.  Turkey shock-and-awe, as it were.  Well, that didn’t work, cause I’m too tough for that. I open the deck door and ran all 36 turkeys away – and then maybe, just maybe, I flexed because it felt so good.

Then It Got Turkey-Real

Later that afternoon, my wife was leisurely reading the Sunday paper when she heard a thump on the deck door.  She thought a bird had flown into it as they often do.  But then she heard several more thumps in succession and assumed someone was knocking on the door. And “somebody” was!  It was literally two “Peeping Toms”, standing at the door, intently staring in at our kitchen.  My wife shooed them away and was upset at the turkeys, and of course at me for “causing” this problem. Let’s just say she was equally upset with all turkeys involved with this situation. (The photo at the beginning of the post is from a subsequent “knocking” incident) But I have to admit, those turkeys are very smart!

But then I figured out this whole turkey situation. I got inside the turkeys’ heads and started thinking like a turkey – I know, not that difficult for me. 

I had started putting out much less seed for the squirrels since the turkeys were eating so much of it. That day, the turkeys had eaten all the available food but were still hungry.  So the two alpha-turkeys decided to knock on the door to let me know the rafter wanted more food. (Hellooooo, can we get some service here!  What type of a diner are you running?)

This changed my whole perception of the turkeys.  They believed I was a good guy because I was feeding them. (Why else was I putting out this food?).  When I shooed them off without hurting them, they thought it was a game (First this guy puts out the food – then he pretends he doesn’t want us to eat it and chases us around! What a gobble!)  And the massive number of turkeys in my yard that morning was not a show of force, but of affection. (Guys, you got to see this this. There’s this goofy human who puts out food for us and then play games with us!) The turkeys like me, they really like me!

The turkeys are not evil. They are good!  Good, really good, turkeys. They like that I am feeding them and enjoy playing games with me!  Now my instincts, passed down from the woods of Pennsylvania, would be to bond with the turkeys and nurture a relationship with them.  However, I don’t live in the woods. I live in the preppie suburbs. So, I will not bond with the turkeys. I will also stay married. Fortunately, spring is here so the animal feeding will end soon and the turkey problem will cease.

And the turkeys were not the only backyard problem this winter. I also had to take drastic measures to prevent deer from emptying my main bird feeder every night. They eat directly from the feeder by dragging their tongues across
The Shroud of Ake
the feeder troughs. I have been able to prevent this by employing “The Shroud of Ake” (trash bag attached with a rubber band) on the feeder every evening.  I have hopes this shroud will become as popular as the one from Turin.

And I’m not sure I should even call this a “bird” feeder anymore since over the years the animals eating its seeds on the ground have included: rabbits, groundhogs, skunks, possums, foxes, raccoons, ducks, geese and feral cats.  And oh, yeah – turkeys. Lots of turkeys. Too many turkeys.  

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