Oh, those Barrhaven turkeys!

Suburban turkeys (in Grass Valley, CA). Photo: Larry Miller, CC some rights reserved

Barrhaven is a sizable bedroom community within greater Ottawa. Because there’s a wide span of greenbelt/open-space between it and the main contiguous city, it sometimes gets razzed as “Far-haven” and “Bore-haven”.

But this is about turkeys, the wild kind, some of which now rule those suburban streets.

Wild turkeys in Barrhaven began to make the news several months ago, after causing traffic disruptions and becoming pests at a senior’s complex.

Some residents think it’s fun to see wild animals close at hand, as with this video of turkeys at a backyard feeder, or this video taken from a car, with a child’s excited voice asking Daddy about the wild turkeys on the way to work!

CBC article from Dec 2012 finds others are less enthused:

Barrhaven councillor Jan Harder said she says the birds pose a danger.

“I am concerned there’s going to be a bad accident. People are going to dodge to avoid the birds,” said Harder.

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has a fact sheet on “Living with wild turkeys“.  (The clue is in the title: live with it.) One can also download a 44-page “Wild Turkey management plan for Ontario”. Rules and language regarding what’s permitted can seem ambiguous. For example: 

While landowners have the right to take lethal measures to mitigate turkey damage, the MNR does not condone the killing of wildlife if other options are available.

In this situation – on urban streets outside of hunting season – it appears to be illegal to kill the birds or move them more than a kilometer away, which would hardly solve the problem.

Existing levels of conflict may be about to get worse. According to a recent article from the Ottawa Citizen:

It’s a difficult time of year for young male turkeys, explained Jolanta Kowalski of the Ministry of Natural Resources. They’re looking to mate but it’ll be a few weeks before any females are interested.

Typical. Blaming disgusting manners on some purported lack of interested females. Men! (Oh, right. we’re talking about wild birds.)

Barrhaven resident Amy Lennon doesn’t find the situation amusing. She posted a video of aggressive turkeys engaged in “who-owns-this-road?” posturing as she walked to work. (Advisory: there’s an abundance of frustration and colorful language in her ‘running’ narrative.)

According to the Citizen article, the Ministry’s Kowalski says humans retain some legal remedies:

“You can kick them,” she said. “Seriously. You can kick a wild turkey in the chest and it won’t do serious harm but it will be a deterrent.”

Make yourself look bigger and yell at them, she added. In general, try not to run away: turkeys, like most animals, have an instinct that’ll make them give chase. Standing your ground and scaring them off is a better bet.

It’s all funny until the beady eyes and waist-high pointy beaks are headed your way, eh?

Barrhaven – not just a sleepy suburb. Here come the horny turkeys and wild times, right on the sidewalks and streets.

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2 Responses to “Oh, those Barrhaven turkeys!”

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  1. Michael Greer says:

    I have a nephew in Ohio who works for the Fish and Game Commission. He worked for a while in the “problem wildlife division” and got into all sorts of interesting situations, with deer at the mall, bears at the park, and ospreys on the office building. One day the took a call from an agitated homeowner about turkeys at his birdfeeder. The gave a bit of advice about driving the turkeys away and went back to their other duties. Later they got another call from the same guy; this time he’s extremely upset, and claims that he was attacked, and wants them to come out here right now and DO something. After a bit of laughter and joking around the office, one of the officers drove out to see if he could calm the situation.
    Forty minutes later, officer Old Guy calls for backup, and he’s serious. He has been bashed, clawed, and bloodied, and has taken refuge in his car. Half an hour later when the rest of the staff arrives on the scene with big grins on their faces, they are shocked to find their friend seriously wounded and terrified by these bully turkeys. The turkeys seem unscathed, and have returned to the feeder.
    A plan forms to drive the turkeys away with a large law enforcement presence, but on second thought, they deploy loaded shotguns…just in case (here is the part where Canadian readers begin to roll their eyes). The officers form a line and march across the yard knowing that the turkeys will flee, and much to their surprise, the turkeys for a defensive line and begin a counter-strike. As the flash point nears, the order is given to shoot ‘em, and no other officers are wounded. The Fish and Game Commission gathered the turkeys and sent them to Columbus to be autopsied, in hopes of discovering some disease, alien invasion, or demonic possession, but in the end, they were just turkeys.
    So be careful if you want to go out there. Removing the bird feeders might just work best.

  2. Lucy Martin says:

    That’s a great story, Michael!

    Since this post was published, the video of turkeys chasing Amy Lennon down the street has been taken down. A portion of it is incorporated into this Sun news story by Tony Spears.

    Here’s a Dec 20 2012 report from CBC’s Ashley Burke on Barrhaven’s turkey problem.