Wild Turkeys

Problems in the Garden

We talk a lot about critter control in the garden, especially deer, rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels, raccoons etc.  But more and more, we’re hearing from folks (mostly rural / some suburban) who are starting to experience damages from a new critter on the block whose populations are definitely on the upswing – wild turkeys!  And not only are they having turkey damage, they’re also dealing with a lot of turkey scat, or more commonly known as turkey poop.  Wild turkeys can destroy flower and vegetable gardens scratching and eating, they peck on shiny things like windows, doors and cars, they love eating birdseed, will roost in your trees or on top of cars with luggage racks, and they can get aggressive – especially during the mating season.  Like I said, they haven’t become a major issue, but are definitely showing up on the gardening radar more and more.  So, what can you do if your garden becomes invaded with wild turkeys, besides enjoying watching them?  Well, it looks like the repellents aren’t too effective, so you’ll have to go the fencing route (leave the top loose so they can’t land on it), covering plants with nylon netting and anchoring it down (same for areas of mulch where they get in it and scratch), take down the bird feeders if they feed underneath, harass them by spraying them with a high powered water hose, keep a dog in the yard as turkeys generally won’t go into yards where there is a dog, try using the plastic and inflatable snakes (but move them around every few days), and one of the most effective ways to keep them out of the yard and garden (besides the dog) is to use a motion detector sprayer like the ‘ScareCrow’.  Oh yeah, and if they do get a little aggressive towards you, the experts say act like you’re not afraid of them and they will respect you (easily said!).  Open umbrellas make a good defense tool as well.  Of course, there are the plusses of having wild turkeys in your yard.  They are pretty cool to watch and enjoy, and they do eat bugs, especially grubs, slugs and snails.  And for the extra turkey scat you may get if a large flock invades your yard, just hose it off the walks or scoop it up and throw it in the compost pile.  It makes a good fertilizer.  Their scat is not a health threat – wild turkeys are generally healthy and don’t get diseases that can be transmitted to humans.  Who would have ‘thunk’ 15 years ago that we would be talking about chasing wild turkeys out of our yards?  Go figure.

[Domesticated turkeys can’t fly, but wild turkeys can, at speeds of up to 55mph.  They’re not too slow on foot, either, running as fast as 20-25mph!  They have no external ears, yet have excellent hearing.  Turkeys can see in color, cannot see well at night, and have a wide field of vision (about 270 degrees).  They also have a poor sense of smell, but an excellent sense of taste.  Did you know that Benjamin Franklin proposed that the turkey become the official bird of the United States?  Yep, and he was really upset when the eagle was chosen!]

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Ron Wilson

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