They roam the city streets, roost on residents’ homes and chase postal carriers house to house.

They block traffic on the north side of town, intimidate students on the local college campuses and graze daily along the banks of the meandering Red River.

Some residents love them and feed them almost daily. Others see them as an aggressive nuisance and curse them as they waddle by.

So what’s a city to do about those troublesome turkeys?

That’s the question the Moorhead City Council plans to address at its Monday meeting.

While turkeys have been part of the town’s landscape for years, their population has recently surged and now stands somewhere between 200 and 300.

The spike is due in part to residents regularly feeding the birds and also a lack of natural predators, said Mike Oehler, the active area wildlife manager for the Fergus Falls office of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The turkeys became such a problem of late that Tory Jacobson, Moorhead’s deputy police chief, took the issue to the City Council. And for a few days this month, it looked as if the city had hit on a solution.

Jacobson, along with the DNR and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP), put together a plan to relocate 75 of the wild birds to South Dakota. The council approved the idea at its Feb. 11 meeting.

But three days later, South Dakota backed out.

“We initially thought the turkeys were on the outskirts of town and they weren’t doing any nuisance in town,” said Chad Lehman, senior wildlife biologist with the South Dakota GFP. He said the GFP wants rural turkeys, not domesticated birds.

And so the issue is back before the City Council.

Council Member Sara Watson Curry acknowledged the community’s love for the birds and of nature. But, she added, city officials are concerned about the residents who are being negatively affected. As a result, she said, the city “will continue to work on developing a turkey management plan.”

Moorhead police Capt. Deric Swenson, for one, says it won’t be a problem easily solved.

“This is going to be a lengthy process more than likely, and we’ll diligently look at all of our options,” he said.


David Mullen is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.