By Jonathan Roisman

Turkeys get ready to roost in a yard in the East Bay town of Albany. (Audrey Sillers)

On a recent drive in Oakland’s Montclair neighborhood, a motorist stopped at a stop sign and instantly found herself surrounded by wild turkeys. When the driver honked, the birds responded by pecking the car’s tires and door.

Minutes passed with the driver paralyzed until finally an intrepid resident emerged to shoo the big birds away.

It was just another day in the Bay Area, where turkeys are growing steadily more bold.

Here’s a similar incident from somewhere in Northern California:

In Albany on Monday, residents went before the City Council to formulate a strategy for ridding themselves of about 30 of the wild birds roaming the city.

But scientists say it may be too late to stop the the birds’ encroachment into Bay Area suburbia.

According to Scott Gardner, an environmental scientist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, wild turkeys are becoming more common in California neighborhoods.

“Turkey populations in general over the past several years have been increasing in California,” said Scott Gardner, an environmental scientist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Turkeys are very tolerant living in and among people.”

He added turkey populations grow in suburban areas because food is abundant, especially because some people enjoy feeding them.

“We’re always going to have turkeys in our urban areas,” he said. “We’re a good turkey habitat.”

The fowls were originally introduced into the state by the Gardner’s department in the early 20th century. Nearly 3,000 arrived California between 1959 and 1988 alone, according to a Fish and Wildlife document.

Since then the state’s turkey population has ballooned to a quarter-million.

Daniel Wilson, the community relations coordinator with Alameda County Vector Control, said not everyone laments the new state residents. “A lot of people don’t want the birds killed.”

This video, by Randy Caron of New Hampshire, shows just how aggressive turkeys can be:


But he acknowledged that they can tear up gardens, damage cars and steal food. A bicyclist died last year in Martinez when he collided into a flock of turkeys.

And turkeys sometimes charge the familiar faces of people who have fed them in the past, another reason not to feed them, Wilson said.

So what should you do if attacked by a turkey?

Getting a permit to kill turkeys in suburban areas is nearly impossible due to a variety of laws in most cities, such as those prohibiting the discharge of a firearm.

Only eight bird abatement permits were given out last year, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

That doesn’t mean you’re helpless, said Susan Heckly, the wildlife rehabilitation director at Walnut Creek’s Lindsay Wildlife Museum.

Turkeys tend to avoid flying short distances and fences are sometimes enough of a deterrent to keep them out of yards, Heckly said. They usually avoid homes with dogs.

If they do get in your way, you can most often shoo them away if you’re aggressive about it.

And, like the Wicked Witch of the West, turkeys dislike water. So if they refuse to budge, give them a good spraying.

Finding them a new home, however, is difficult. Fish and Wildlife stopped relocating birds to secluded areas due to cost and logistics, Heckly said.

So for now they’ll just continue to gobble up more space in Bay Area cities.

A Bay Area Problem: What To Do If You Are Attacked by a Wild Turkey (Videos) 30 November,2013KQED News Staff

  • Juvenal451

    Since we got the wild turkeys, we also have seen a resurgence of foxes… .

    • Oscar

      A resurgence of foxes? Really? Do you mean that they just naturally resurged? Without any governmental assistance?

      • Troll? ^^^^^ (anti-government)

      • Juvenal451

        No, I mean that there are more fox sightings because, it’s my hypothesis, foxes like to eat turkeys.

    • Iceman_v_1

      I really doubt foxes try to eat turkeys. Adult male foxes weigh 10-15 pounds while adult male turkeys weigh 11-25 pounds.

      Foxes usually stick to insects and small rodents. I have seen a fox eat a snack once, though.

      • Juvenal451

        All I know is one minute there were no turkeys and no apparent foxes. Then scored of turkeys. Next thing I know, turkey numbers have diminished and we see foxes on our deck and trotting down the road. Weight isn’t everything….

  • wackygal

    I thought all our turkeys were in Sacremento and Washington DC. I learn something new every day !

  • Nugent

    I noticed that the increase in Turkeys has corresponded with an increase in IRS audits.

  • 12 Gauge Shotgun – time for a turkey shoot and an early Thanksgiving

    • xanuser

      yay! pass the shot pellet filled breast meat and enjoy having a criminal record for discharging a firearm in the city.

  • Eat. Them. I can’t imagine it’s all that hard to wring one of those long necks.

    • Oscar

      Oh, but I think it is. Wouldn’t it be safer and more ‘humane’ to the turkey if you just sliced its head off using your holster-mounted machete?

  • JSebastian

    Actually contrary to what the article cites as municipal laws prohibiting the discharge of a firearm, most codes have as an exemption the caveat that a person may shoot dangerous or destructive beasts on his property.

  • Oscar

    “…scientists say it may be too late to stop the the birds’ encroachment into Bay Area suburbia.”

    So, does that mean we are completely helpless, until we start to respect turkeys, or merely until we shoot and eat them?

  • Lucy

    We have huge flocks of them in Hercules, and they’re breeding. I was stuck on a narrow road for about ten minutes the other day while a family of two females, two males, and six youngsters couldn’t decide which side of the road they wanted to stay on. Honking does absolutely nothing; they don’t care. I’ve had them trap me in my garage a few times, too. I once smacked one with a newspaper because it was trying to follow me inside after I got the mail, literally throwing itself at me and at the door as I tried to open it. It gave me a look that suggested it would happily rip my throat out given half the chance.

  • LetsGetReal

    BB gun or a pellet gun might do the trick without killing the birds or making much noise.

  • John

    Shoot them.

  • Eat them you fools! Problem solved.

  • kjcoutts

    Bring back the
    Mountain lions! Balance achieved…..

  • John

    Turkeys are set to turn out in droves and tip the vote in the 2016 elections!! They must be stopped at all cost! Won’t you join me??

  • Oakland’s animal shelter has plenty of dogs that will be more than happy to help with the turkey problem. Some shelter will let you take a dog out for the day won’t it? My dog loves turkeys.

  • Allan Lindh

    The Tom’s are aggressive this time of year because it’s breeding season. The only harm they can do to you is jump up and spur you with their spurs on back of legs. Don’t be afraid, just grab him by the neck and wring it. And if you’re not into hand to hand combat, just use a heavy stick, like a baseball bat, whack him alongside the head, then ring neck. Then pluck and remove innards, age for 2-3 days at about 50 degrees (must protect from flies), then brine for a day, and roast.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor