When turkeys attack: Reign of terror ends in Athens

Two days ago, a woman felt so threatened she jumped in a car to escape.

The culprits? A gang of wild turkeys.

But their reign of terror, which lasted a month in an Athens subdivision, ended Tuesday. Department of Natural Resources officers put down two gobblers who were causing most of the trouble in Olde Lexington Gardens.

"This was a very unusual situation," DNR biologist Alex Coley said. "We only get three or four calls a year about turkeys acting aggressively. It's usually during breeding season, when a gobbler feeling his oats gets on someone's car or something.

"These turkeys had become habituated because people had been feeding them," he added. "It happens with bears all the time. People start feeding them and they become habituated and lose that natural fear and respect they have for people."

Residents had cried fowl for three to four weeks. On two previous visits, DNR officers didn't spot the birds. But there they were Tuesday morning, two toms and four hens in a back yard.

"The hens hadn't been showing aggressive behavior so we left them alone," Coley said. "When we approached, they moved away but the gobblers came toward us."

The gobblers couldn't be relocated because they were so aggressive, Coley said. After they were put down, a necrospy showed "the only thing they had been eating was bread, no natural foods," Coley said.

Coley reminded residents not to feed wildlife.

"It happens with deer and bear and turkey and even accidentally with coyotes and foxes, people leaving pet food out overnight," Coley said. "They get used to that food source and it ends up causing conflicts."

Resident Carol Herzog, 69, had a scary encounter with the gobblers on Monday.

"I was outside, and the two toms kept walking toward me, pushing me backwards," she told the Athens Banner-Herald. "They were flying up to my face as I kept backing up. I was scared to death."

Herzog told the newspaper she felt like a prisoner in her own house. "I had to look out the window to make sure they weren't out there," she said.

"They were getting ridiculous."

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