Gobble trouble? Turkey populations coming back in valley | AspenTimes.com

Gobble trouble? Turkey populations coming back in valley

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Three decades ago, Glenwood Springs wasn’t considered ideal habitat for wild turkeys. But after reintroduction efforts in the 1980s on the Front Range, the birds are thriving here, increasing human-turkey conflicts.

“Turkeys are doing so well, and are so adaptable, that they’re actually becoming a nuisance species in some regard,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife area manager Matt Yamashita.

Turkeys have been seen above treeline, and also feel comfortable in neighborhoods and even urban environments, Yamashita said.

They regularly hang out in north and west Glenwood Springs, and people have seen them walking near stores and hotels.

A few years ago, one young male turkey made the road behind the Hot Springs Lodge part of his territory and was fearless about protecting it from cars.

Though it’s been several years since that turkey was seen, Yamashita said his office regularly gets calls about turkeys in town.

“They’re fine with living in town. We have birds in lots of neighborhoods in the Roaring Fork Valley. We’ll have 100 birds living in a subdivision, to the point that homeowners will call us up because they’re pecking holes in the siding,” Yamashita said.

That can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to a home. Fortunately, turkeys are not particularly dangerous to humans, though they may cause bruising by beating their wings against a person’s leg, and could injure children.

Turkeys are a unique bird and normally docile, and some people like to see them about town. Seemingly every settlement in the valley has some people who like to put food out for turkeys near their house.

It’s not illegal to feed turkeys, but encouraging greedy gobblers to hang out around a neighborhood can lead to conflicts and attract unwanted wildlife.

“Almost 100% of the conflicts that we’re seeing around residential areas are tied back to somebody artificially placing food out for (turkeys),” Yamashita said.

Another problem with feeding turkeys is that bear and deer sometimes eat the same seeds and corn that people may put out for turkeys, and it is illegal to feed those species.

Turkeys are also prey for mountain lions, and clustering flocks of the birds in neighborhoods can bring big cats closer to houses than they might otherwise come.

“We’ve had mountain lions that will sit and on people’s garages and houses while they’re waiting for turkeys to come out of the trees,” Yamashita said.