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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Wild turkeys in Davis


Davis turkeys threaten residents, students

According to the City of Davis Wild Turkey Population Management Plan, the famous turkey flock came to Davis 10 years ago when nine wild turkeys began roosting in Davis cemetery. The turkeys found ample food and few natural predators within the city, and, as a result, their population has swelled to almost 100.

Recently, Davis residents have found the turkeys have become increasingly problematic, and, while some residents find them amusing, others want the birds gone.  

“[It’s] funny that we have this problem,” said Leah Julian, a fourth-year religious studies major and lifelong resident of Davis. “We [had] a turkey that lived in our backyard for a month during Thanksgiving time, so we would always joke that [we were going to] eat it. […] It was kind of annoying, but it’s an animal. What are you going to do about it?”  

Her experience underscores some of the turkeys’ more benign behaviors: defecating in yards and pecking at gardens.

“I feel like they’re more of a nuisance than anything,” Julian said.           

However, some turkeys have proven far more nefarious. Turkey flocks have a pecking order determined by aggression, and one male bird is notorious for showing aggression toward residents. He frequents the corner of 4th and F Streets and has been nicknamed “Downtown Tom”. As a display of dominance, he chases residents through downtown.

Brock Wetzlich, an employee of the Rivers to Reef fish store, which is located on F Street, has experienced the wrath of Downtown Tom first-hand.

“I was leaving the store and the turkey was right there. […] I walk out, and the turkey just starts chasing after me. […] [Someone] had to go shoo it away before I could go outside ‘cause it kept trying to chase me. I don’t know what it has with me,” Wetzlich said.    

Some residents find encounters with aggressive turkeys amusing — others even enjoy them. Ruben Nolasco, a fourth-year anthropology major who works downtown, described an incident in which a turkey stood in front of the entrance to Temple Coffee on G Street and blocked a person from entering.

“[The person trying to enter Temple Coffee] could have gone around to the other door, but he wanted to get past the turkey, so he was also playing along too […] it was pretty funny,” Nolasco said.

Not everyone thinks favorably of the turkeys, however. Aggressive turkeys have prompted numerous calls to the Davis Police. The callers are often terrified and usually at a complete loss as to how to shake the turkeys off. Small children are particularly vulnerable to the birds as they face a real risk of physical injury if chased by a turkey.  

Concern is growing over potential car collisions due to turkeys wandering on roads, and the property damage they cause is starting to extend beyond gardens. In a recent interview with Sacramento news station KCRA 3, a Davis resident noted that the turkeys had scratched his car.

The turkey saga may soon come to an end — or lose steam at the very least. Two weeks ago, the Davis City Council voted 4-1 to revamp the city’s Wild Turkey Management Plan. In addition to implement initiatives to educate residents about scaring off wild turkeys and a “no-feeding” ordinance, the city will begin to euthanize particularly aggressive turkeys and attempt to relocate approximately half of the remaining population — bad news for Downtown Tom.


Written by: Raul Castellanos  city@theaggie.org


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