Living with Wild Turkeys
Most people enjoy observing wildlife, including wild turkeys. However, providing food in residential areas to attract wild turkeys can become a public safety threat for you and your neighbors.
Wild turkeys are opportunistic foragers and can eat a wide variety of leaves, grass, seeds, berries, insects, worms, snails, frogs, and small reptiles. This allows them to thrive in a variety of natural habitats. They also can inhabit residential areas, particularly where they are being fed.
How to avoid problems with wild turkeys
Feeding wild turkeys in residential areas isn’t good for them and can compromise the overall health of wild turkey populations.
Wild turkeys are supposed to cover large land areas while foraging throughout the day. Providing food repeatedly causes them to congregate, which results in a build-up of droppings and unnaturally increases contact between flocks.
These conditions can encourage disease outbreaks and the spread of disease through wild turkey populations.
In addition, feeding wild turkeys in residential areas, intentionally or unintentionally, is discouraged because it causes them to lose their natural fear of people and can cause them to act aggressively. Wild turkeys can become a public safety concern due to their:
- Powerful wings
- Large size (males can weigh over 20 pounds and stand 3 1/2 feet tall)
- Sharp spurs on males’ legs
- Tendency to occur in large flocks of 6 to 12 birds
Once aggressive behavior is established, it’s difficult to change.
Another problem with feeding wild turkeys in residential areas is they’ll remain in a neighborhood or community, which can eventually lead to pecking and scratching cars, tearing up flower beds and depositing turkey droppings on drive-ways, sidewalks, yards and porches. Turkeys have been known to begin roosting on roofs and pool screens, which can result in considerable property damage.
The best way to prevent these issues is to simply not feed them.
How to resolve issues with aggressive wild turkeys
If you encounter wild turkeys that are remaining in a residential area and appear to be losing their fear of people, the FWC recommends aggressively hazing them by:
- Chasing them (without making physical contact) while doing the following:
- Waving your arms or clapping your hands and yelling at them
- Making loud noises using an air horn or banging pots and pans
- Spraying with a strong water jet from a hose
- Waving or swatting at (but not hitting) with a broom
- Opening a large umbrella while facing them
- Allowing a large dog on a leash to bark and scare them
Encourage other adults in your neighborhood to do the same by sharing these tips with your neighbors. Your efforts will be more successful if everyone avoids feeding wild turkeys and helps instill the turkey’s natural fear of people by actively hazing nuisance birds. If wild turkeys begin acting aggressively, increase your hazing efforts.
Wild turkeys that are repeatedly aggressive toward people may ultimately have to be killed. It is rarely an option to trap and relocate wild turkeys that have become aggressive. Keep wild turkeys wild by not feeding them.
For more information or help
If you have questions or are experiencing conflicts with wild turkeys in your neighborhood, please contact your local FWC regional office. To report an emergency situation involving aggressive wild turkeys, call the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).