Wild turkeys have turned from a nuisance to a problem in some Columbia Valley communities.
Mark Holmes knows first-hand the damage wild turkeys can do. The 16-year Edgewater resident has been under attack from the turkeys for several years now, with dozens of them roosting in the trees out front of his place. He first noticed the birds in Edgewater about three or four years ago.
“The first year, we see them wandering through town and it’s a huge novelty,” he said. “Now, they’re a problem.”
His trees have been severely damaged from the flock of birds. He has tried chasing them away, using a special reflective tape, and other legal means, (including writing a letter to the editor to the Pioneer December 7th urging residents to not feed the animals), but the problem remains.
“They marshal up across the street from me, about 70 of them. Then, … just as it’s becoming dark, they all take off in great waves, like bombers coming in,” Mr. Holmes describes. “All of this results in tremendous ongoing damage to my trees and property.”
His latest scheme is to tie rope in a criss-cross type pattern to try blocking the clumsy birds from flying into one of the trees, which they tear apart to gain access. However, after a few days, he realized he would need far, far more rope to have any chance at the method proving effective.
Mr. Holmes argues, the problem of turkeys in town will persist until people stop feeding them.
Edgewater is located in the Regional District of East Kootenay Area G. Gerry Wilke, Area G director, says he is not only aware of the issue, he has also had concentrations of turkeys in trees across from his Edgewater home.
“The litter and the mess was really something,” he recalls.
Mr. Wilke called Conservation Officers to talk to individuals who were intentionally feeding the birds. But, because there is no bylaw, they could only suggest, not enforce, a no-feeding rule. Besides the mess and the occasional
traffic hazards, Mr. Wilke says it is not doing the wildlife any good to feed them either: “It’s encouraging them to live in unnatural conditions.”
In answering concerns from people in the Area G communities, Mr. Wilke is looking into the potential of addressing the issue in a more formal matter, such as encouraging a no-feeding bylaw at the regional level.
Down the road from Edgewater, in Radium Hot Springs, Council addressed the issue of wild turkeys at a December Council meeting. The Village of Radium Hot Springs has been in discussions with the Provincial Wildlife biologist to review options for mitigation of the population. Mark Read, Village of Radium Hot Springs CAO, says the wildlife biologist stated “quite clearly,” they need to get a handle on the feeding: ‘If we stop the feeding, we stop the problem’, he remarked.
Radium does have an animal safety bylaw that prohibits the feeding of wild animals. However, they discovered recently the definition of wild animals is for mammals, so the bylaw does not address the feeding of turkeys. Mr. Read confirms the Village is planning to amend the bylaw in order to include turkeys.
“We are trying to ascertain who may be feeding deer and / or turkeys, and educate them first and hopefully get voluntary compliance,” said Mr. Read.
The Province is looking to change several hunting regulations this year, including for turkey hunting. Currently, the Kootenay region allows open season hunting opportunities in the Kootenay region, with one allowed in the Spring and one in the Fall.
The proposed regulation would be a December 1-31st Limited Entry Hunt turkey hunt, valid for the entire Kootenay Region. In the rationale for the change, the provincial Fish and Wildlife Branch cites the problematic increasing turkey population in the region.
“Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development staff are receiving increasing complaints mostly from rural residents on private land. Turkeys can cause property damage, noise complaints and can become aggressive. Turkey conflicts are most often dealt with by providing the public with information about how to prevent and deal with conflicts. People are intentionally feeding turkeys on private land, which is causing the majority of issues. There are an increasing number of requests for “kill permits” (Permit Regulation 2 b (ii)) on private land,” states the rationale. “A Limited Entry Hunting season is proposed to address/mitigate some of the issues related to increasing turkey populations.”
The closing date for discussion is Friday, January 19th. To comment on that or other proposed changes to hunting regulations, visit https://apps.nrs.gov.bc.ca/ahte/hunting.
Rick Hoar, Lake Windermere District Rod & Gun Club president, says a limited entry hunt will not help the wild turkey problem in areas such as Radium, as there is no hunting allowed in muniicpalities. But, depending on how the Limited Entry Hunting rules are set up, it could help reduce the wild turkey population in the region overall.