Readers tell of havoc caused by wild turkeys
A few weeks ago I naively asked readers to let me know about wild turkeys in their area. I asked for an address, a rough count of the birds, and a little information about what sort of damage the birds are causing.
I was immediately inundated with enough tales of horror to remake Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” with an all-turkey cast.
Hardest hit, it would seem, is the community of Hercules. The letters I received from the Herculeans were tinged with a bit of hysteria. Hundreds of turkeys, they say, are roaming the area, destroying landscapes and gardens, damaging roofs, frightening the unwary and creating havoc.
“As a resident of Hercules,” one reader wrote, “I see wild turkeys everywhere.”
“They land on rooftops with such force,” the letter writer continues, “it feels like an earthquake or something crashing on your home. They then hang out in your yard, pooping on the roof, decks and driveways, and feeding off your flowers, lawn and garden. They do not change their path. In the evening hours they return, back on the streets everywhere and hanging out in the front yards eating and making a mess.”
Hercules is not alone. I had reports spanning the Bay Area, from Richmond to San Jose.
In fairness, not everyone was unhappy about their bird visitors. Although most of the more than 70 respondents considered the turkeys a destructive intrusion on their property, a few said the turkeys did no harm and that they enjoyed watching them.
My purely unscientific survey counted 1,618 turkeys in dozens of flocks. The California Department of Fish and Game estimates 18 percent of the state is occupied by the wild turkeys, brought to California years ago as hunting game.
Is the state concerned about the burgeoning population? In a word, no.
“There are too many of them to be concerned about them,” says Andrew Hughan, California Department of Fish and Game spokesman. “It’s considered a local problem. It’s a house-by-house, area-by-area problem.”
The state has a pamphlet recommending ways to discourage turkey intrusions, and it offers the option of eradication, although if you choose to go that route, you’ll have to do the deed yourself or hire a qualified trapper/exterminator.
If you have a turkey problem, Hughan says, apply with the department for a “depredation permit.” A game warden will investigate and if he or she feels the permit is warranted, the state will allow you to hunt and kill turkeys.
In city limits, where it is illegal to discharge weapons, you’ll have to hire a pest-removal service that has a standing permit to kill the turkeys. Although there is a hunting season for turkeys in the wild, and limits on how many
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can be taken, there are no restrictions in these cases.
Hughan says it might be a good option for homeowners and homeowner associations.
There are other nonlethal ways to deal with turkeys, although it will take a village to make it work. Most all wildlife that ventures into our suburban and urban realms enter in search of food. If the food supply — bird seed, pet food, unsecured garbage — dies out, they will wander elsewhere. Clear any food from your yard and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Hughan says turkeys are especially fond of avocados, so think about your fruit trees.
The turkeys don’t have a personal vendetta against us; we have encroached on their habitat and they simply are trying to survive. They just are doing an exceptional job at it.