Submitted by Natalie Ebsworth
WildSafeBC Columbia Valley Community
Coordinator (Radium/ Invermere) 

It’s that time of year again when the turkeys are starting to seek refuge in our backyards if they haven’t already. 

Did you know they are agile fliers and roost in trees overnight to stay safe from ground dwelling predators? Wild turkeys can create substantial conflict when inhabiting urban areas, in fact, wild turkeys can be a real nuisance in some neighbourhoods. While seeking refuge in trees, they strip off smaller branches and peel away bark from their new roosts. When this happens in our communities, property owners are faced with significant costs to restore, protect or remove the damaged trees. 

One of the main reasons we see wild turkeys in our town is because of direct or indirect feeding. Bird feeders are the biggest culprits attracting not only turkeys but also other species such as deer and squirrels. Giving feed directly to wild turkeys is strongly discouraged, since this causes habituation and dependence on human food sources. Increased access to unnatural food sources can also cause turkey populations to increase, which leads to more susceptibility to disease, increased fecal matter and property damage within communities, and ultimately more stress for turkeys due to intraspecific competition. Wild turkeys have been able to survive for hundreds of years in the wild without human interference, and there is enough wild food to be found outside in our communities to support their survival and maintain natural population levels. 

Wild turkeys, after becoming habituated, may be very intimidating when in a flock within an urban or suburban neighbourhood and cause discomfort to people walking through the area. Do not allow turkeys to become habituated to people. Turkeys that are comfortable around people are more likely to cause damage or attempt to dominate people, and this becomes a difficult problem to mitigate. The best way to prevent aggressive turkeys is to prevent them from becoming habituated to people in the first place.

To reduce conflicts with wild turkeys, there are a few things one can do:

• Make your yard WildSafe– keep your lawn cut short and weed free (when not under snow). Be sure to remove all dense brush and cover that may act like shelter or bedding material. 

• Do NOT feed turkeys– this will encourage them to stick around and likely cause problems. Remove or secure all potential sources of food. This includes bird feeders and other attractants. It is ILLEGAL to intentionally feed or bait ungulates or turkeys in the Kootenay Region, except under permit.

• Create fencing– always check with bylaws prior to putting up a fence. 

• Understand hazing techniques– if a wild turkey continues to hang around after trying your best to make it clear that they are unwanted, it may be time to consider hazing techniques such as motion light detectors or sprinklers, opening an umbrella, leashed dogs (provided you can control them and the dog does not harm the turkey), banging pots and pans or, other noise makers, like radios. The idea is to make them feel threatened and, therefore, leave the area. 

• Beware of turkeys on the roadside– turkeys that hang out on roads and highways are sometimes difficult to disperse, and if they become hazardous, they may need to be forcibly removed.

Thank you for NOT feeding the turkeys, let’s “keep wildlife wild and communities safe.”