Wild Turkeys

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When describing rural wildlife, having a section on wild turkeys wouldn�t immediately come to mind. Actually, in the last few years, the influx of wild turkeys has had a real impact on our area.

American wild turkeys, the kind Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the national bird, were in decline for many years. Recently our end of Sherilton Valley has become a sanctuary for turkeys that have migrated into the area. Years ago wild turkeys were reintroduced to various areas throughout the US in an effort to increase their dwindling numbers and provide a game resource for hunters. The turkeys in our area a descendents of a group that was released about twelve miles away in the Julian area. See:
National Wild Turkey Federation.

Because we don't have dogs and I provide water sources throughout our property, the turkeys have been spending quite a bit of time nearby. Actually, our ranch is ideally suited for flocks of turkeys and it provides all the necessary prerequisites. They like a mixture of open space (like pastures) and nesting spots which are provided by our Coastal Live Oaks. It's this mixture that is the key.

Our neighbors to the south also put out food and we've received some teasing from people who find the idea of protecting the turkeys ridiculous. It's not a huge issue with me in that I'm not a vegetarian and I probably eat turkey sandwiches several times a week. On the other hand, we moved to the country to experience nature and I get a kick out of seeing wild critters wander through the property. Besides, you can buy a turkey a Von's for $8 and you don't have to mess with the feathers.

Still, we can�t ignore the negative impact this growing population is causing. We have several flocks in our area and at times we�ve counted groups of over 40. They eat all day long and it�s not hard to recognize areas where the birds have browsed. They root through gardens and dig up and eat any new growth they see. Their favorite areas where they take dust baths soon become bare patches of exposed dirt.

For now, we�re watching with interest to see what develops. The fires of 2003 upset the balance of nature and the predator equilibrium is still adjusting. We�re currently being overrun by squirrels, mice, and rabbits while their natural predators have been slower to return. Hopefully things will eventually even out and that fine-tuning will also solve the turkey overpopulation.

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