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Turkey shoot

What happens when an American success story, the resurgence of the population of  the wild turkey, comes up against “urban sprawl” (in this case, represented by the Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville, CA) and the general lack of understanding (or biology education, perhaps?) among many (especially anti-hunting) Californians concerning wildlife populations without enough predators?

Something’s gotta give.:-)

The Crow Canyon Country Club homeowners association (representing about 350 homes) was given a state permit today by the California Department of Fish and Game, to have up to 75 wild turkeys (Benjamin Franklin‘s candidate for our national bird, which lost out to the bald eagle) shot before March 1. (You don’t expect residents to shoot the birds THEMSELVES, do you? :-) Mercy!)

The plans have upset some in the gated community.

(At this point, I should explain that, in general, I tend to side with the folks who believe that the purpose of  “gated communities” is to keep their residents IN, rather than to keep other folks OUT! :-) As they tell schoolkids these days, “Excluding is bullying.” )

“I think it’s inhumane,” said Virginia Blair, who has lived in the community for 20 years and likes the turkeys coming by.

Fish and Game spokesperson, Andrew Hughan, said the association has been trying to handle the turkeys for four years, and getting a permit for the killings means showing a hazard, public safety problem or another problem.

Last year, the homeowner’s association got a permit to gather the birds using a net gun (remember when authorities “bagged” my former governor in the action movie, “The Running Man?”) and fixed traps. But, with only up to five turkeys being caught each week, :-) the perceived problem continued. Individual residents have also been given permits to remove turkeys.

A local Department of Fish and Game representative estimated that about 100 turkeys live at the country club, and once, a group of 44 was seen. (What can I say? Wild turkeys are SOCIAL animals, kind of like, you know, people who live around country clubs in gated communities. :-) )

Hughan said that relocating turkeys is not efficient because, sometimes, they RETURN! (“I’ll be back.:-) ) Instead, a certified hunter will shoot the birds with a .22 rifle with silencer. (We wouldn’t want to disturb any of the residents with gunfire! :-) Oh my!)

At this point, is anyone beside me getting a mental image of (golfer) Bill Murray with a high-powered rifle hunting the “Varmint Cong” in “Caddyshack?” :-)

Unlike the situation with other animals, there is no requirement with regard to disposal of the turkey carcasses, although Hughan said that sometimes hunters donate the birds to food banks. IMHO, the professional hunters should be REQUIRED to donate these birds to food banks or another charitable cause. There are enough hungry people without wasting food, animals for which hunters pay much of the cost of conservation, with their dollars.

Virginia Blair, quoted above, said that bird droppings don’t create a bigger problem than people not picking up after their dogs. I must agree with her.

Growing complaints about wild turkeys has caused the state to add the species to the list of animals that can be killed with a permit in cases of property damage and public health problems. I am sure that this must anger hunters who must obtain a hunting license and upland bird stamp to hunt turkeys, and obey strict laws concerning sex of the bird and daily and seasonal bag limits, while trying to find a place to hunt. Oh, before that, these hunters must attend and graduate from a hunter education program in California. Yeah, we’re all mad here.

During my graduate school days in Madison Wisconsin, I recall professional hunters being called in to “thin the herd” of whitetail deer at night in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, people were too “squeamish” :-) to authorize the hunting of some of the 300+ whitetail deer damaging Sharon Woods Metro Park (ONLY 761 acres) and STARVING in the process, so pregnant does were shot with “drug-dart guns” shooting abortifacients to cause miscarriages. Yes, mass starvation occurs and wildlife populations crash when there is not sufficient predation (or hunting).

In Livermore, at the VA Hospital, there are small signs as you ascend the hill that say “Please don’t feed the turkeys,” which have better eyesight than humans and are probably smarter than SOME of the humans I’ve met. (Maybe that’s why folks in Danville managed to TRAP five or fewer each week!) :-) (Note added January 30, 2011: I re-read the sign today, and it is much less polite than I remembered. The sign says, “Do not feed the wild turkeys at any time.” The redundant “at any time” lets the reader know that the sign was written by a government agency! :-) ) Turkeys, sometimes displaying their magnificent plumage in courtship dances, are found all over the grounds of the hospital, which is adjacent to additional good turkey habitat.

Such issues have no easy answers, although sometimes I wonder who the real “turkeys” are.

-Bill at

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