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Not-so-wild turkeys taking a shine to urban living

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Troy Shantz & Cathy Dobson

They’re almost a common sight now, strolling down streets, holding up traffic, hanging out on front porches.

Wild turkeys have moved into Sarnia and Point Edward seemingly as permanent residents, and the invasion of wattle-waving fowl has residents flocking to social media to post their latest photos.

“We’re getting a big kick out of it,” said Liz Page, a case manager at St. Clair Child and Youth Services in Point Edward, where wild turkeys have been regular visitors for at least a year.

“There must be more than one turkey but we just call them all Tom,” she added. “We laughed about him coming for some group therapy. He’s a bit of a conversation piece.”

At Manley’s Basics down the road, owner Carolyn Leaver Luciani said staff noticed several adults and their chicks hanging around last fall.

“They’re hilarious and will come right up to the back door and look at everybody,” she said.

One turkey is a regular at the nearby Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers office in Point Edward.

“It comes to the front door of the clinic every day and sometimes pecks at the window. Looking at its reflection I assume,” said Kelly Brown, an occupational health nurse.

“Everyone thinks it’s hilarious how he just hangs around and pecks the glass.”

A wild turkey perches on the roof of a parked car as her friends mill about a south Sarnia neighbourhood last October.
Ronny D’Haene

Wild turkeys have been living in and around Sarnia Golf & Curling Club and Canatara Park for about five years now. Another group of least four birds began patrolling south Sarnia last fall, and this winter residents have reported individuals and groups of birds in many different neighbourhoods.

One large male, or Tom, is frequently seen in the Colborne-Cathcart Boulevard area, where he acts as though it’s his personal fiefdom.

Their presence in the city is consistent with a strong and growing population in rural Lambton, said Mike Kent, president elect of Lambton Wildlife.

“The turkey’s increasing range is sort of a conservation success story,” he said.

Native wild turkeys disappeared from Ontario in the early 1900s, a victim of overhunting and habitat loss. But in 1984 the Ministry of Natural Resources obtained 274 birds from three U.S. states and began a reintroduction program.

It’s been wildly successful. Today, Ontario’s turkey population is estimated at 100,000 plus and reaches as far north as Algonquin Park.

“Like deer, skunks, and raccoons, they seemed to have benefited from humans,” said Kent, adding there are fewer predators in town.

“It’s nice to see some turkeys in the city, but take caution. Enjoy them from a distance.”

The males have sharp spurs and have been known to chase children and pets, especially during the aggressive spring breeding season.

Feeding them also should be avoided, Kent added.

“They’re not to be seen as a big enemy. Just a wild animal.”

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