Turkeys are trotting , with a warning from Fish & Game

Don’t feed the birds or expect them to stick around and annoy
By: By Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - State Fish & Game officials are advising that wild turkeys are walking nature’s runway as a chilly nip returns to the air in the fall.

Wild turkeys are coming out in droves and Fish & Game's biologist on wild turkeys said Thursday that the Auburn area has the perfect habitat for the birds to flourish.

With a combination of oak trees for fall foraging and evergreen trees for roosting, turkeys are able to make themselves at home in foothills elevations that provide those elements, Fish & Game’s Scott Gardner said.

But Gardner said humans wanting to give Mother Nature a helping hand by setting out feed for the big birds can create problems.

“Once you feed them, it’s really hard to get rid of them after that,” Gardner said, noting that turkeys normally roam a large swathe to find normally natural food sources.

Fish & Game is warning homeowners that the peaceful presence of a few gobblers can soon turn into a nightmarish ordeal of trying to shoo away unwanted guests that destroy flower and vegetable gardens, leave their dropping on patios and decks or roost on cars. At 20 pounds, full-grown wild turkeys can scratch auto paint jobs easily with their claws.

“They’re very tolerant of people,” Gardner said. “That tolerance and proximity in the past has led to modern-day Butterballs.”

November also marks the start of the turkey hunting season, for those with a taste for the game birds. This year, it starts Saturday and has been expanded to 30 days. The close of turkey hunting season is Dec. 9.

Gardner said wild turkey may be an acquired taste for some but it’s one of the leanest meats.

“What’s really great about wild turkey is it’s so low in fat,” Gardner said. “Of course, a lot has to do with how you prepare it.”

At the Placer Nature Center in Christian Valley, north of Auburn, staff naturalist Josena Aiello said wild turkeys are one of the most visible signs of wildlife near the non profit’s buildings and on its trails.

Aiello said the turkeys in the area have been a joy to watch this year as they have grown from chicks and the center goes out of its way not to feed them. A small pond on the property supplies a source of water and is probably an attraction, she said.

Aiello said she’s not a big fan of turkey at the table, having tried it and not liked its gamey taste.

“And it’s stringy because they’re exercising their muscles all the time,” she said.

The Robie Point area near Downtown Auburn has been a noticeable haven for wild turkeys, causing problems in the past for motorists and pedestrians.

But Bud Pisarek, a resident of the canyon neighborhood for nearly half a century, said that while the turkeys are still roaming, things have calmed down this year.

“We’ve seen more deer around and a lot less than a couple of years ago,” Pisarek said. “They’re less of a nuisance. And they’re not chasing the postman.”

Fish & Game says that complaints about wild turkeys increase at this time of year.

As well as not feeding the birds, department biologists are warning residents with turkey problems to remove bird feeders and pet food, and consider motion-detecting sprinklers to deter visits.

“If confronted by a wild turkey behaving aggressively, slowly back away,” Gardner said. “Turkeys often strut and gobble at people, but very rarely actually come into contact with them.”