The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Colville receives a lot of questions from the public, and one we’ve heard recently is: Wild turkeys tend to congregate on or near my property every winter. What can I do to avoid damage from them and discourage them from sticking around?
Wild turkey habitat often overlaps with human habitat because they are generalists and seek easy food sources such as agricultural fields, gardens, orchards, haystacks, bird or pet food. They are known to cause damage to agricultural crops, damage windows or other objects that cast a reflection, and can create a mess of droppings when large groups take up residence in a confined area.
The best way to prevent conflict with wild turkey is to take proactive steps before there is a problem. To start, never intentionally feed wild turkeys. It will draw more to your property and indirectly attract other wildlife. Putting away bird feeders for a few weeks when turkeys are spotted near your property can reduce the time they spend.
You can use deterrents to reduce the time turkeys spend at your property by altering nesting locations, reducing the number of places they can roost, removing some of their favorite plants to forage, and hazing them. Reducing dense shrubbery where turkeys could nest in spring can decrease the chances they will stick around. Bird spikes or ledge exclusion products can deter turkeys from roosting where you don’t want them.
Non-lethal deterrent methods like sprinklers, spotlights, radios, scarecrows, loud noises or well-trained dogs can keep them from becoming too comfortable on your property.
Wild turkey will normally not act aggressively towards people, however, there are a few times of year or situations where they can be. For example, after poults hatch, hens can be aggressive when protecting the little ones. Another situation is when domestic dogs are involved. If a turkey does act aggressively, swat it with a broom or spray it with a hose.
Sometimes, when turkey issues seem insurmountable, relocating an annoying bird can seem attractive. However, it isn’t legal to capture and transport wildlife without a permit and they often return to their original location despite the effort.
If you experience turkey issues, contact the local WDFW office to talk with a conflict specialist to determine the best way to address the problem.
You can also find more information on preventing conflict with turkeys on the WDFW website at WDFW.WA.Gov. Use the search bar and type in “wild turkey.”
If you have a question for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 509-563-5495. We will pick one question a week and answer it on the air. In the meantime, you can find a lot of answers to fish, wildlife and habitat questions at wdfw.wa.gov.