Turkeys seem to rule the roost in a Brooklyn Park neighborhood just north of the Coon Rapids Dam. Residents of Mississippi Villas have asked City Hall to deal with turkey issues on bike paths, yards and at least one rooftop.
Steve and Lana Hollmann, who at one point had about 40 turkeys roosting in trees and shedding droppings above their townhouse, have posted a sign that pleads: “Please harass the turkeys.”
Most residents have stopped stocking bird feeders to discourage the gobblers that strut through the neighborhood almost daily.
“They are rooting through our landscaping beds looking for food. They are largely unafraid of people or cars. They are a big nuisance,” said Aric Swenson, president of the Villas townhouse owners association. “It’s gotten to the point where there is just too many.”
Responding to resident calls for help, the City Council last week approved a draft animal management plan to deal not just with turkeys, but deer, coyotes, raccoons and other pesky creatures, said Mayor Jeff Lunde, who lives near the afflicted villas. A final plan will return to the council for approval. Lunde said the city has heard from people seeking help about everything from deer to mice. But some other residents like the animals.
“One neighbor’s pest is another neighbor’s opportunity to feed wildlife,” Lunde said. The council decided to create a management plan that sets general rules that could be applied to any obnoxious or proliferating beast, he said. “We need a policy where we can say ‘no’ as well as ‘yes,’ ” Lunde said.
The mayor recalled one evening a few years ago when he saw a coyote, deer and his two dogs — all fleeing in opposite directions — in his back yard.
The city already has a deer management plan that includes having bowhunters remove a specified number of deer each year, said Parks and Recreation Director Jon Oyanagi, who helped draft the wildlife plan. The hunts have removed 181 deer since 2011, when there were 105 deer-vehicle crashes. Last year had 66 deer crashes in the city of nearly 78,000 people sandwiched between the Mississippi River and Maple Grove.
Too much success
The surplus of gobblers, once extinct in Minnesota, is an overly successful story for the state Department of Natural Resources, which helped reintroduce the eastern wild turkey, said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife population and regulation manager.
The DNR began importing the fowl in southeastern Minnesota in the 1950s, then trapped and moved them north. The turkeys thrived and the DNR ended the program seven years ago.
Now the big birds are “pretty common in the metro area,” Merchant said, especially near large county parks or wooded areas such as those found in northern Brooklyn Park. Turkeys also have been seen in downtown Minneapolis and near Lake Harriet on the South Side. One flew into a window at the DNR headquarters in downtown St. Paul a few years ago.
The DNR doesn’t count turkeys but tracks how many are harvested during fall and spring hunting seasons. Merchant said last year’s harvest totaled 1,033 in the seven-county metro area. More hunting is needed, he said.
“Some like turkeys, others don’t and it gets difficult for local governments to deal with competing interests,” Merchant said.
The DNR encourages limited turkey hunts in cities with too many of the birds, but Merchant doesn’t know of any city-sponsored hunts in the metro area. Plymouth has a turkey and deer management plan, but no turkey hunt.
The DNR’s follow-up suggestion is repeated turkey harassment. That includes chasing or spraying water on turkeys, removing bird feeders and other food sources, letting dogs bark at them or using motion sensing lights to scare them at night, Merchant said. Of course harassment just relocates the birds, making them somebody else’s problem, he said.
Merchant noted that tom turkeys, which weigh up to 22 pounds, can be aggressive, especially during spring mating season. That starts soon. Merchant said city officials can shoot turkeys if they cause a health or safety issue.
Howard Peterson said he saw no turkeys when he moved to the Villas in 2003. “Yesterday, I saw 15 [turkey] hens walking down the middle of the street like they own it. That means a lot of chicks.”
The Villas, with 56 homes, would like a turkey hunt, but Swenson said the city’s draft wildlife plan is moving in the right direction.
The Hollmanns have been hardest-hit by the foul birds whose roosting trees are partly above their townhouse. Steve Hollman, 64, said he has had to clean droppings off some windows and use a hose in the spring to wash excrement off the bike path by his house that connects to the wooded North Hennepin Regional Trail corridor.
Until turkey hunts start, Hollmann said he has discovered a handy harassment tool that has reduced his roost numbers from 40 to about 10.
“This winter when I see them in the trees I get the paintball gun out,” he said with a smile. “I go after them and they fly away.”