Thanksgiving is over, but wild turkeys still roam Richmond’s neighborhoods
on December 14, 2014
Many Richmond natives didn’t grow up with wild turkeys roaming in their neighborhoods.
But now, the big birds chase joggers in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, pad around parking lots at Hilltop, leave droppings on residents’ driveways in Point Richmond, and have been sighted on the roof of a residential building in Brickyard Landing.
Some don’t care. Some love the turkeys. Some hate the plump birds.
Estimates of the turkey’s populations are inexact. There are 50 to 60 wild turkeys in Point Richmond according to Tom Butt, mayor-elect and a long time Point Richmond resident. It all started with a hen turkey that appeared in Point Richmond about eight years ago, he said.
“Everyone was amazed, it was a turkey,” Butt said. “Everybody thought if it was just a hen turkey, how we are gonna get any more.”
The next year, five turkeys appeared. The third year, 25 popped up. The fourth year, there were 40. The numbers keep rising.
“Richmond is probably one of the last areas they have been expanding into,” East Bay Regional Park District Wildlife Program Manager Doug Bell said, “maybe from the core population from hills in Berkeley and Oakland. There are certainly lots of turkeys in the regional park.”
Many of these turkeys in Point Richmond live in the pines on the hillside above the East Scenic Avenue, according to resident Isabelle Murphy. And they are huge.
According to National Geographic, wild turkeys top 4 feet in body height, 5 feet in wingspan, and they can weigh as much as 18 lbs.
Point Richmond resident Megan Christine commented on Facebook about local wild turkeys, writing “they are big, no doubt! 4 feet sounds about right.”
The turkeys Murphy sighted were smaller.
“If I squat down toward the ground I’ll see eye-to-eye with the toms,” she commented on the same Facebook post, “I’d put them to be about 30 (inches) tall.”
Wild turkeys are omnivores. They eat grains, seeds, vegetables, insects and other small animals. They particularly love acorns from oak trees.
Eight to a dozen wild turkeys roost on the hills behind Brickyard Landing. They venture down to the residential area to feed during the day.
“There are a lot of ornamental trees in our property,” Brickyard Landing resident Colleen Cieszkowski said. “They stand under the trees, they jump up and they grab the little berries off the trees.”
Whether anyone has made one of Richmond’s wild turkeys a juicy Thanksgiving meal remains unknown.
“It is dramatic to see a half dozen or more toms strutting down the road with their tail feathers spread open,” Murphy wrote in an email.
Richmond resident Robert McCauley counted one turkey flock when he lived in Hilltop.
“I watched them coming into the parking lot. At least 30 of them,” McCauley said. “They are kind of hard to count because they don’t come through one at a time.”
The turkeys moved, stopped and looked around before they started moving again. Then they backtracked and hopped up on the wall.
Baby turkeys can be seen hanging out with their parents each Spring. They grow fast and can double in size in a week.
When people get too close to the baby turkeys in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, they could be in for a rude surprise.
“I got chased a bit when I ran into a mama turkey and babies when I was out with the dog and the baby jogger,” Victoria Wyatt commented on a Facebook post. “She just wanted to make sure we left, but it was pretty rattling.”
Wild turkeys like to flock together. They sometimes step on sidewalks and cross streets. But they tend to move away when people walk by. Most of the time, wild turkeys don’t bother people.
But the big birds do leave huge turds, some residents grumble.
“They poop in our driveway, they poop in our yards,” Point Richmond resident Suzanne Gordon said. “Everywhere they are they poop because they don’t have toilets.”
Her husband Steve Early said they don’t really mind. They just wait for the next rain.
One representative from Brickyard Landing Owners Association who doesn’t want to be named said that some residents don’t like the turkeys because the birds leave huge mounds of feces behind.
He contacted California Department of Fish and Wildlife to see what options he has.
“They were very clear,” he said. “They are native to California, they were here first, leave them alone.”
If the situation is dire, the Department of Fish and Wildlife does issue turkey depredation permits. The department doesn’t do the depredation directly but authorizes the permittee or some designated agents to act.
According to John Krause, a wildlife biologist from California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the department issued two depredation permits this year to the Rolling Hills Memorial Park in the Hilltop area. Wild turkeys were causing damages to the memorials, the landscaping and planting.
But not many permits have been issued to Richmond.
“There really only have been a handful in the last couple of years total,” Krause said. “In 2014, there were a couple of them. In 2012, in 2013, and 2011, I think only one permit each of the years.”
Neither Krause nor Bell has specific numbers of the turkey population in Richmond or in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. But Krause thinks the turkey population in Richmond has leveled off.
Both Krause and Bell advise Richmond residents not to feed wild turkeys because that will make the big birds overly tamed and not wary of people. One turkey visitor might turn into 50 permanent residents.
“They certainly know how to feed them, survive very well on their own,” Bell said. “Example is that their population has increased so much. So that they are doing very well without additional food from human.”
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