City Has to Clarify Position on Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkeys are a frequent site in Davis, such as these two in the E St Plaza
Wild Turkeys are a frequent sight in Davis, such as these two in the E Street Plaza

A KCRA News report on Wednesday caused a fury in the city of Davis when a city official appeared to call for hunting restrictions on wild turkeys to be lifted.

According to the story, “In Davis, wild turkeys have become so much of a problem that city wildlife officials now recommend allowing specific types of hunting within city limits. They trot through the park, the cemetery and even down the middle of the street.”

The story continued, “Davis Wildlife Resource Specialist John McNerney sees the use of bolas, snares, traps and nets as all safe and viable options to limit the turkey’s population.”

“It would be safe for the community at large, and also difficult because you’re not guaranteed to get one of the birds,” Mr. McNerney said.

Reportedly, “The city’s turkey population grew from an initial six in 2006 to around 80 birds today. The Department of Fish and Wildlife only allows hunting wild turkeys with a shotgun, archery equipment, or air rifle. However, Davis has a city ordinance banning the use of those weapons.”

However, the ending of the story may have drawn people’s attention: “McNerney plans to lobby state representatives to change the laws regarding which weapons must be used to hunt turkeys.”

Residents emailed the Vanguard opposed to the idea of hunting and killing Davis’ wild turkeys.

What happened next was baffling, as no one in the city seemed aware of this story or the comments by Mr. McNerney, a city employee in the Public Works Department with the position of Wildlife Resource Specialist. The city manager told the Vanguard that this was news to him.

The city of Davis, by the end of the work day, after 5 pm, released a statement clarifying “some misinformation presented in a recent news media segment regarding the management of wild turkeys in Davis.”

According to the city, “The news report misstated that the City of Davis Wildlife Resource Specialist was proposing to allow hunting of local wild turkeys. It should be clarified that the City of Davis is not proposing hunting of turkeys be permitted in the City and has no role in permitting the hunting of wildlife.”

The city states, “The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is responsible for regulating the hunting of state wildlife. While turkeys are identified as a harvest species by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and are legally hunted throughout the state, hunting within the City limits is illegal and prohibited by the Davis Municipal Code.”

The report notes, “City staff has been receiving an increasing number of citizen complaints about the turkeys. The complaints range from aesthetic issues associated with feces and damage to landscaping and private property to potential public safety issues associated with aggressive encounters. These impacts grow in proportion to the size of the population and tend to be focused in specific neighborhoods around Davis.”

The city continues, “As a result of community concerns, residents asked City staff what potential options exist to address the growing population. Staff is currently analyzing several management options to address the growing local wild turkey population and associated community impacts. These options include continued turkey behavioral monitoring with outreach and education about coexistence and problems associated with supplemental feeding, hazing and mass trapping and removal. City staff will engage the community to seek input on any additional management plan prior to implementation.”

Finally they add, “The City would also like to take this opportunity to remind residents that the feeding of wild turkeys is the primary reason that turkey populations are increasing in specific neighborhoods and strongly advocates that residents not feed the turkeys. If you have a bird feeder under which the turkeys are feeding, remove the feeder for several weeks until the turkeys disassociate with it. If your neighbor is feeding them, ask them to stop. Turkeys are naturally nomadic. Without a regular source of food, they will wander larger areas to find it.”

For more information on living with urban turkeys please visit the City’s website.

Photo courtesy City of Davis
Photo courtesy City of Davis

According to the city website:

“Turkeys can be fun to watch and they help to keep pests like slugs and snails reduced. However, they can also tear up landscaping in search of food and pose a traffic hazard when crossing busy streets.”

  • Do not feed turkeys.
  • If turkeys begin feeding under bird feeders, remove the feeders until the turkeys leave the area. This may take several days to weeks.
  • If turkeys are causing problems in your yard, install motion-detecting sprinklers.
  • Wild turkeys typically will not enter yards with dogs.
  • If confronted by a wild turkey that has lost its fear of humans, an open umbrella or walking stick may help steer it out of your path. Turkeys rarely make aggressive physical contact with humans. Be assertive and dominate. Let that turkey know you’re the boss.
  • Avoid sudden stops or swerves when encountering turkeys in the roadway.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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42 Comments

  1. 2cowherd

    Perhaps John McNerney could ask Trader Joes to corral their pet turkeys that insist on playing “chicken” in the slow lane in front of their store on Russell Blvd 🙂

      1. Dave Hart

        Agree with Don, maybe the six turkeys they are talking about are in North or West Davis where the important people live.  They’ve been out here in the cemetery area for at least twenty years.

         

  2. Barack Palin

    I love the turkeys, they’re our city mascots.  We recently woke up to having a dozen of them in our backyard.  My wife took a bunch of pictures and showed her class.  Maybe the population needs to be thinned somewhat but would be sad to see them go.

    1. South of Davis

      BP wrote:

      > Maybe the population needs to be thinned somewhat but would be sad to see them go.

      We could have a short one day “turkey season” where Davis residents who hunt give a couple dozen birds to Davis residents who don’t hunt to cook a big turkey dinner for the homeless…

  3. tribeUSA

    I enjoy watching the turkeys and having them about town also (often see them in north davis on one of my bike excercise routes). 80 turkeys doesn’t seem excessive. When the population grows to 8000, perhaps a thanksgiving cull can be initiated–bag a gobbler from the backyard and save a trip to safeway–like most people who have meat in their diet (light amounts for me), I’d be too cowardly squeamish to nab my own bird, though, and would get one already slaughtered, butchered and prepped in a safeway freezer.

    1. PhillipColeman

      The current turkey population of 80 seems awfully low to me. Three years ago, I had 17 on the roof of my home. I have pictures to prove it.

      No natural predators, and abundance of food, and the ability to reproduce in substantial numbers, turkeys are becoming less of a novelty and more of a nuisance with each passing day. However, I still stop, stare, and admire when I see them, which is frequent.

      I wonder who exactly was responsible for the “misstatement.” If it came from the City (and the wording strongly implies that), there is no possible way Davis can lobby Sacramento for a legislative change and expect it to be successful. No local legislator would carry it, being far more aware than somebody that Davis is an animal-loving town of every variety, except maybe rats.

      Davis is not the only local community dealing with turkeys. There is precedent for humane relocation of excessive flocks.

  4. Robert Canning

    God forbid that we live in a small city with an unclear wild turkey policy.

    Maybe we could build a turkey tunnel to facilitate the migration of turkeys from the north side of the freeway to the south, and vice-versa.

    1. Alan Miller

      Perhaps we could build a six-story luxury apartment for them with a bicycle concierge and stick it in an inappropriate place.

      Of course, they’d probably sleep two-to-a-room, use the den as a bedroom, where would they park their cars?  And . . . of course they’d crap off the balcony onto the neighbors.

    2. WesC

      We first need to create a City of Davis Ornithology Department and then convene a series of community outreach programs, task forces, focus groups, learning collaboratives,  and then perhaps designate a number of areas as safe havens for our feathered friends.

  5. tribeUSA

    I spoke to a US Mail delivery lady in my neighborhood, and she said the turkeys have gotton aggressive with her, sometimes attacking the mail truck and her near some homes!

  6. Eileen Samitz

    Seriously? So we would have people shooting bullets or arrows within the City limits? What if they miss their turkey target and hit someone, or someone’s pet, someone’s property like their car? There is no way that an “open season” on these turkey’s would work, nor does it make any sense due to the obvious dangers it would present. There has got to be a better way. This is where we need to ask the City’s urban biologist for potential solutions.

    1. Dave Hart

      I think the use of firearms in the city for this purpose is inadvisable.  Every hunter knows that a clean shot includes nothing behind your target that would allow a projectile to go errant.  Also, the means of hunting needs, if it were allowed in our city, to have a high degree of assurance that the animal is killed outright and not simply wounded.  That would be most uncool.  A high quality and well-balanced machete would be a good alternative.

      1. Napoleon Pig IV

        Clearly a better solution – as long as both the machete and the machete wielder are properly licensed by a properly established legal authority – and the machete sharpener is never stored in the same room as the machete.

  7. South of Davis

    Eileen wrote:

    > So we would have people shooting bullets or arrows within the City limits?

    We will require that everyone uses birdshot (no bullets or arrows) in the city limits.  You really need to be negligent to hurt anyone when hunting with birdshot (so we won’t let former VP Dick Cheney join the hunt)…

    1. Biddlin

      LOL. Turkeys can be a serious threat, though. My missus is disabled,  but could walk with the use of a cane, until one morning, while collecting the mail, she was knocked down by a territorial bird. The injury is permanent. I would welcome an open season, no bag limit on them. I will be driving past Trader Joe’s repeatedly, hoping to nail a few.(Joke!)

  8. Don Shor

    Find and eliminate nesting sites.

    Stop feeding them.

    Exclude them from gardens with fencing.

    Have a professional trap and kill them if necessary.

    1. Biddlin

      Take it from a former Texan, shooting them is more fun. Besides, i rather like the thought of Davisites armed with shotguns, patrolling the shrubbery for turkeys.

          1. Don Shor

            Yes, they can fly. They will fly if disturbed. My dogs scare them up regularly on my property. But the mostly get from one food or nesting site to another by walking.

  9. Don Shor

    A little more detail. I was once licensed in the category of vertebrate pests as a pest control operator. Never dealt with turkeys, though.

     

    Vertebrate pest management involves:

    Reducing habitat

    Removal of food sources

    Elimination of nesting sites

    Disruption of nesting

    Exclusion (barriers, fencing, netting) from resting and feeding sites

    Trapping and relocation (violates federal law in some cases)

    Killing (should only be done by professionals)

  10. Biddlin

    “Killing (should only be done by professionals)”

    (Avoid sudden stops or swerves when encountering turkeys in the roadway.)

    And responsible drivers!

  11. Eric Gelber

    It just goes to show you, it’s always something–if it’s not one thing, it’s another. First they try to take away our Coke and now it’s our Wild Turkey.

    Oh. Wait. Never mind.

  12. Dave Hart

    I’ve noticed that the early population explosion of turkeys occurred near the cemetery.  I feel for the people who live along East Eighth Street where I’ve seen flocks of up to 20 at a time filling the front yards of some of the houses and nesting on the roofs.  One factor along that stretch of street is all of the cork oaks and the acorns they produce.  I suppose daily raking of acorns during the season would mitigate the habitat, but then there are the wild oaks in the cemetery property and the new development to the east of it.  Plus, the new housing development there has probably disturbed the birds’ habitat and so they are moving out to greener pastures.  I saw two very large ones at the intersection of Covell Blvd and Monarch Lane yesterday near where I live.  A first, to my knowledge.

    I do wish the city would alter it’s advice on driving behavior around the birds.  It’s not all that helpful to simply say “Avoid sudden stops or swerves when encountering turkeys in the roadway.”  What I have observed is that people who have never grown up around livestock tend to come to a complete stop and then traffic backs up.  Instead, the city should advise drivers “When encountering turkeys in the roadway, do not stop, but do slow to about 3 mph and simply drive through the flock at a constant speed.”  The birds will move and then traffic can get back up to speed much quicker.  Don’t worry, even turkeys will not run under your wheels under such circumstances.

  13. gentlereader

    How about a city wide easter egg hunt? With the focus on turkey nests? Egg removal seems the easiest, most humane way to keep the population under control. Maybe a prize for the person who finds the most turkey eggs?

    We could have a Turkey Trot in November and a Turkey Not in April.

    1. hpierce

      As I understand it, if you take the eggs, they ovulate again… “oiling” the eggs was what I recall being effective with the ‘runaway’ Canada Geese population growth @ West Area Ponds…

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