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Turkeys thriving, causing ruckus in San Francisco suburbs

  • Wild turkeys roam a neighborhood in San Rafael, Calif., earlier this month. “There are tons of stories (about) people’s brand new Mercedes getting torn up by 20-pound Toms who are looking at their reflections,” said Dan Gluesenkamp of the California Native Plant Society. Bill Disbrow / SF Gate via AP


Associated Press
Monday, November 20, 2017

Turkeys are traditional for Thanksgiving. But some folks in the San Francisco Bay Area are praying the wild ones will go away.

Introduced into the state for hunting decades ago, wild turkeys are thriving and have invaded urban areas, perhaps seeking food, water and safety from predators over five years of drought.

“The neighborhood embraces them,” Darlene Devon Andrade of Concord, Calif., shared on the Facebook page of the San Francisco Chronicle. “We are all very careful when driving and let them roam freely in our streets and yards so they can eat and be happy!”

On the other hand, the birds poop everywhere, tear up landscaping, gouge screen doors, knock off roof tiles and can get ornery if they perceive a rival.

“These turkeys weigh like 20 pounds, and they know how to defend themselves,” said Dan Gluesenkamp, executive director of the California Native Plant Society. “There are tons of stories (about) people’s brand new Mercedes getting torn up by 20-pound Toms who are looking at their reflections.”

About 20 of the big birds swing by the home of Anthony and Holly Blackburn daily in the town of Martinez.

“My wife gets irritated because she cleans up after them,” Anthony Blackburn told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I like watching them on the hill across the street, scratching and pecking, and even occasionally napping. The males will occasionally fan their tails to impress the females.”

California doesn’t regularly track the wild turkey population, although a survey made more than a decade ago put the statewide population at about a quarter-million, the Chronicle reported.

Homeowners can try to dissuade the birds from entering their yards with stop-motion sprinklers or loud noises. If that fails, they can get permits to kill nuisance birds.

Contra Costa County issues about 60 permits a year, said Greg Martinelli, a program manager with the Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife office overseeing an area that extends between Santa Cruz and Sonoma County.

Preservationists worry about the effect of a wild turkey explosion on native plants and animals.

“They move across the landscape, 20 or 30 of them, elbow to elbow, scratching every inch of the land,” Gluesenkamp said. “They eat every creepy crawlie, every salamander, every lizard, every snake, every nut, every acorn, every wild flower seed, every quail egg.”

“Turkeys are really cool,” he said. “They’re incredible birds. And we love seeing turkeys. But there are just too many.”