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Give me a home, where the wild turkeys roam…. :-)

As one of my friends from another country noted recently, people in the U.S., lacking many of the REAL problems (rockets flying overhead, car bombs going off on a regular basis, etc.) experienced by people in some OTHER countries, INVENT imaginary problems in their own heads. The resurgence of the American wild turkey from the edge of extinction is ONE of those imaginary problems.

“The turkeys were an interesting curiosity until they pretty much destroyed my new landscaping job while I was away on vacation,” said Lesley Prentice, who spent thousands of dollars to repair damage at her home in Alamo.

For those “out of the know,” Alamo is a very wealthy inland community east of San Francisco Bay. Some of my comments on the one-line quotation above would be:

  • I haven’t been financially able to take a “real” vacation in years. :-) Hence, even though I’ve seen urban wild turkeys three blocks from my home, I haven’t been “bothered” by them! 😉
  • It is NICE to have thousands of dollars to spend to repair damage to landscaping and EVEN MORE thousands of dollars to put the landscaping in, in the first place! :-) I might start to question my PRIORITIES in life, if I had similar problems. But such people are generally not plagued by introspection…. :-)
  • Wild turkeys live in harmony with Nature, of which they are a part. Humans are ALSO a part of Nature, but many of us still choose to try to subvert Nature to our own wills, instead of trying to live in harmony with it.

An interesting COROLLARY of Bay Area “turkey troubles” is the fact that there are so few HUNTERS (you may have noticed today that turkeys are “good eating!” :-) ) in California, given the size of the state, and yet, there is a distinct anti-hunting, anti-gun sentiment here. Contributing to the problem (the HUMAN problem, this time) is the fact that many people, both in California and country wide, lack a good understanding of biology, evolution, ecology, and predator-prey relationships. :-)

One of the bitterest complaints of homeowners is the turkey poop problem.

In Portola Valley, Cindy Cuhna wasn’t so fond of a family of wild turkeys after the babies grew up and the birds pecked away and killed her ground cover and her showy blue pride of Madeira flowers.

“As they matured, so did the problems,” Cuhna wrote in an email. Their favorite place to poop was on top of her new Lexus.

Well! Portola Valley is one of the 40 wealthiest communities in The United States of America. (Do you detect a TREND here, with regard to people and their perceived problems? 😉 ) I know that we park our OWN cars outside a two-car garage because we use much of our garage space for storage, for general lack of storage space in the house, itself. We are among the MANY people in California who live in a house with a crawlspace INSTEAD of a full basement, because contractors who built the homes did so cheaply, to maximize their profits.

People in Portola Valley do not HAVE such problems!

I might ask “WHY is the pooped-upon Lexus (a Toyota for “brand-conscious” people) sitting outside?” :-) The same trend, protecting unnatural landscaping and complaining about natural birds (OK, I’ll admit that they are hybrids.) seems to emerge. Maybe, just maybe, it might be the WAY that some folks in these enclaves of the very wealthy CHOOSE to live that is the REAL problem! (Do you think that the very POOR [who might LACK a Lexus :-) ] complain about wild turkeys in their area? :-) Or do the very POOR just EAT the birds, NO DOUBT violating several laws, without reporting the turkeys…? 😉 Such people just MIGHT view a “turkey problem” as a “gift from God.”)

Maybe the turkeys pooping upon the Lexus is merely their way of making a social comment! 😉 Maybe, just maybe, wild turkeys are the AGENTS of social justice, for the rest of us. Or maybe, in the ongoing territorial struggle of wild turkeys against the VERY rich, wild turkeys are merely demonstrating their SUPERIORITY…! 😉

Wild turkeys are very social animals that communicate actively (better than some humans :-) ) and work together (again, better than some humans :-) ) to glean insects and other food from areas in which they live. I understand that some folks think that the turkeys are descended from ancestors of Velociraptor-like dinosaurs. I doubt that folks would be complaining about the “poop problem” if, instead of turkeys, Velociraptors were running around the neighborhood. :-)

Experts estimate that there are now around 6 million turkeys (about the number of people in the Bay Area, alone) in 49 states, and about 18% of California has wild turkeys. Experts also say that Bay Area and Sacramento cities are in the center of “turkey trouble” or turkey recovery, depending upon your point of view and the number of upscale luxury cars that you own. 😉 A state biologist (ah… introducing some KNOWLEDGE into what until now has been a largely emotional outcry of the very rich) said that turkey populations have been leveling off (in biology, ALL populations will “level off” at the very least) in rural areas, but that the turkey populations are still growing in the Sacramento and Bay Area regions. The Santa Cruz Sentinel quotes him:

“Wild turkeys are moving into our urban areas, and finding it a very welcoming environment,” said Scott Gardner of the state Department of Fish and Game.

Residential areas near open spaces have it all — food, water, trees for roosting and protection from mountain lions and coyotes that are reluctant to go near homes.

Imagine the situation if coyotes and mountain lions had slightly different behaviors and chose to “pick off” some of those rich human beings who are encroaching upon their natural range. We could have a different and ENTIRELY MORE INTERESTING collection of complaints! :-)

The Santa Cruz Sentinel article cites two accidents, one fatal, caused by the interaction of people with wild turkeys:

Wild turkeys are adding danger to the road, too. Craig Elstins, 51, an experienced bicyclist from Benicia, died last month from injuries sustained when he crashed on a Martinez rural road after a flock of turkeys ran in front of him. Elstins was wearing a helmet and cycling a familiar route with friends.

Last year in Walnut Creek, a motorcyclist crashed on Interstate 680 when a flying turkey hit him. The rider survived.

Those of us who motorcycle (as I do) or bicycle know that wild turkeys are the LEAST of our problems. I have seen wild turkeys on the road in front of me twice while motorcycling. In both cases, I stopped and once shut off the engine and tried to COUNT (more than 30) all of the turkeys, with their babies, crossing the road in front of me on their way to a source of fresh water! I met a motorcyclist who was hit by a jumping deer on Highway 9 one evening. He survived, with broken ribs; the deer did not. The greatest danger to both bicyclists and motorcyclists in the Bay Area continues to be other human motorists who either don’t pay attention or actually don’t care.

Note to my fellow Californians: Who ever said that LIFE is supposed to be “perfectly safe?” Life is a bold adventure – one that is worth experiencing – but it is NOT “safe.”

Got Turkeys? :-) The Sentinel offers this advice and commentary:

“If you really care about wild turkeys, you won’t feed them because you are making them into a nuisance and putting them into a situation where they may be killed,” said Gardner of Fish and Game.

If a wild turkey invades your yard, experts advise shooing it away, spraying it with a water hose or waving an umbrella at it. Dogs can frighten off the birds as well.

In response to increasing complaints, Fish and Game issues about 100 depredation permits annually that allow people to kill turkeys that damage property.

Human hunters consider wild turkey a prize because of its good taste and lean, low cholesterol meat, but there are local restrictions on firing guns near houses, said Phil Martinelli, a veteran hunter from Alamo. He drives out of the area to shoot a wild turkey to be served at his Thanksgiving dinner.

Bob Ericksen, a biologist (darn, there goes that introduction of “knowledge” into the discussion again! :-) ) with the National Wild Turkey Federation, says that the population of wild turkeys “takes off” quickly when turkeys expand their range into a new area, and then it levels off after about 20 years.

(With a little bit of luck, maybe some of the “chronic complainers” won’t LIVE that long! 😉 )

In the late 1800s, the outlook for survival of the wild turkey in this nation looked bleak because of over-hunting and habitat destruction. But now, helped by hunting limits, conservation protections and introduction of wild turkeys into old areas or new ones like California, the population is strong.

“Frankly,” Ericksen said. “wild turkeys are doing much better than we would have expected.”

The article has some slightly-out-of-focus graphics (perhaps they’re using Windows with its non-standard file formats) to teach you about the range of wild turkeys in California and some distinguishing characteristics of hens and gobblers.

Personally, rich people have caused FAR more trouble for me in my life than wild turkeys have. I tend to “turn a deaf ear” toward chronic complainers who have no REAL problems and have to invent imaginary ones.

I sometimes start to wonder who the REAL turkeys are.

-Bill at

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