While hiking this morning, I came upon the scene of the heinous crime, the murder of a mother. Mrs. Hen was apparently going about the peaceful business of raising her brood when some lurking predator struck her dead. Her family terrified jumped into a wild flight, off to who knows where. Those poor orphaned poults are now homeless and vulnerable if they are not dead already.
What do you think killed Mrs. Hen?
Submit your best guess of the murderer in the comments.
BTW, we can hope the dead hen’s poults get adopted by another brood hen. If poults survive the attack, they will seek out a new hen by sound and sight. That is why turkeys are so vocal even this time of year; if you know what to listen for you will hear hens and poults calling out to each other.
Steve Hickoff says
The list of suspects is long, eh.
I have seen older poults survive such a thing over the years . . . not sure about this one, eh.
charlie elk says
Thanks for commenting Steve,
Yep, the list of suspects is long for sure. My bet is on an aerial predator, perhaps a barred owl?
There was no sign of struggle on the ground, maybe death occurred in the treetops, turkeys roost there at night, owls are active feeding at night. So turkey is killed in the tree where some feeding takes place then she falls to the ground and the owl or owls continue feeding. There are no chewed bones so a canine is unlikely.
Nick Wright says
What about a bobcat?
charlie elk says
Hmm, a cat could take a roosted turkey during the night and eat some flesh in the tree. I’ve not seen a bobcat in this area but that does not mean they aren’t around.
Would a cat make teeth marks on the breast bone?
There were no teeth marks that I could detect.
We just came across the same thing this morning. I was just doing a little research when I came across this page. We were delightfully watching a mother hen and her adorable brood for 2 weeks. We just bought cracked corn to start trying to feed them. This morning we came across a huge pile of turkey feathers (downy ones mixed in, from poults?), maybe a couple of toes also but no flesh or anything else, it was a massacre, Horrible, and no poults in sight. We were thinking a coyote? What are the chances any of the poults survived? We are still keeping our eye out for some. 🙁
charlie elk says
Could be coyote or fox both leave feathers all over the place and eat all the flesh and bones. Downy feathers makes it sound like a poult plus they are the easiest to catch. The hen is very capable of escape which she usually does leaving the poults to scatter. This flury of movement and noise has a confusing effect on the attacker hopefully distracting its focus to multiple targets giving all the best chance of escape; not always effective as you have witnessed. The hen will then call her scattered brood back together in a safe location using an assemble call.
I would think all but one poult survived unless a pack of coyotes was involved that were disciplined hunters who would each have focused on an individual poult and caught their own. This would be unusual this time of year as coyotes are not in hunting packs but rather family groups with mostly inexperienced pups. Keep in mind one turkey has enough feathers to make a huge pile.
You should rethink feeding the turkeys, I know how tempting it is but they become more vulnerable to predation at a feeding station. All predators ariel and ground will soon discover the brood of turkeys consistently feeding in the same area and begin hunting there.
To have fun seeing and hearing hte turkeys you might want to try getting a turkey call and learning to do kee-kees, kee-kee runs, and assembly yelps. Broods of turkeys are very vocal this time year particularly in the early morning and evening as the sun is setting. It is a lot fun talking to the turkeys in addition to observing them; kind of like entering their world.