Wild turkey rules roost in Blaine

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2007 - 11:14 PM

The nameless fowl is quite aggressive, and so far has eluded capture by animal control.

A fearless fowl has been strutting along Cloverleaf Parkway in Blaine since spring, delighting senior citizens, annoying police and mail carriers, and frightening schoolchildren waiting for the bus.

"It went after elementary kids at a bus stop, and it doesn't scare away," said Police Chief Dave Johnson, whose department has fielded numerous turkey calls.

Johnson said an officer called one day to report that the Cloverleaf turkey had him trapped in his squad car.

"The turkey was coming after him," Johnson said. "He turned the siren on and said the bird wouldn't scare away. Before he could get out, the turkey was pecking at his car. He finally opened the door and took a run at it and got the turkey to move."

No known damage has been done by the bold bird, one of three or four living in nearby woods, but it is aggressive and could potentially cause traffic accidents, Johnson said.

The city is working with a wildlife management firm that he hopes can remove the gobbler, which has evaded Anoka County animal control officers.

Many of the elderly at Cloverleaf Courts apartments, near Hwy. 65 and 93rd Avenue, enjoy watching the big turkey. Some say they even chat with him on their daily walks.

"He prances around and stands out here and gobbles as the cars go by," said resident Dorala Christensen, 73. She said the bird pecked at tires on a car that honked at him. "They yelled at him out the window. That made him mad," she said.

The nameless fowl also regularly pecks the truck of the senior complex's mail carrier, said Pete Nowacki, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Minneapolis. He said the post office three times has called county animal control, which located the bird but it escaped into the woods.

Wild turkeys are protected by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which has been trapping and releasing them across the state since they were reintroduced to southeastern Minnesota in the 1970s, said the DNR's Bill Penning. Turkeys were native in Minnesota but settlers killed them off in the 1800s, Penning said.

Now the metro area has at least a few thousand of the 60,000 or so birds statewide, he said.

Minnesota hunters harvested a near-record 9,412 turkeys last spring, including about 450 in the metro area, Penning said.

He said most second- and third-ring suburbs with any tracts of woodlands have turkeys, which hatch up to a dozen poults in the spring. Most turkeys can be scared off by shouting, shooing with a broom, spraying with a hose or putting a dog in the area, he said. And, of course, don't feed them.

The DNR will issue permits for police to kill aggressive birds that harass people, and the state allows police to kill without a permit if a turkey is an imminent threat, Penning said.

Johnson said the city contracts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deal with problem turkeys. He said turkeys frequent a number of areas in Blaine, including a wildlife sanctuary behind City Hall, near 109th and Radisson Road.

Christensen, one of the residents, hopes this turkey survives its detractors. "He means no harm," she said. "I'd hate to see him be killed. I'd miss him."

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

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