'Stop feeding the birds': B.C. town overrun by dozens of wild turkeys

A local official in Edgewater, B.C., says a bylaw may be necessary to prohibit residents from feeding roughly 100 wild turkeys that are causing damage.

An estimated 100 turkeys roam in Edgewater, B.C., causing property damage and safety concerns

Wild turkeys wander around a property in Edgewater, B.C. (Mark Holmes)

Wild turkeys have become such a problem in one small B.C. Interior community that the regional district is considering a bylaw that would prohibit people from feeding them.

Roughly 100 turkeys can be found roaming the streets around Edgewater, B.C., roosting in local trees and causing extensive property damage by defecating in private yards and breaking tree branches.

"I've got about 60 or 70 of them living in my trees," said resident Mark Holmes.

"The birds are huge — big, clumsy birds ... they end up knocking off huge amounts of foliage and twigs."

Holmes said the birds sometimes roost together, overloading large branches and causing them to snap off. He said there is currently a 10-foot branch "tangled up in the top of my crabapple tree."

Turkeys roost in a tree on Mark Holmes' property in Edgewater, B.C. (Mark Holmes)

"Don't get me wrong, I'm actually a great wildlife lover ... but the way I see it, in my own particular case, I'm fairly affected by all this."

"The other 99 per cent of people that live in this town don't have them destroying their trees, whereas I'm the one unlucky guy that has them destroying mine."

Holmes said during his cleanup last spring, he filled a full-size pickup truck "with branches, twigs and needles five feet high."

Fallen branches and twigs from roosting turkeys outside an Edgewater home. (Mark Holmes)

Beyond damage to yards, local officials are concerned about the birds — which can be up to four feet tall — creating traffic hazards and getting aggressive with residents.

Concerns about safety

"The mess that they make when they roost is really quite astonishing, but there's also some concern ... about the safety of small children on their way to school," said Gerry Wilke, fellow Edgewater resident and area director for the Regional District of East Kootenay.

"They can be somewhat intimidating."

Homes and Wilke both agree that the birds, which are not native to the area, will continue to be a problem as long as residents keep feeding them.

B.C.'s Wildlife Act states that "a person must not intentionally feed or attempt to feed dangerous wildlife," but Wilke said the law does not go far enough when it comes to turkeys.

Wilke said Edgewater should consider implementing its own bylaw prohibiting turkey feeding, similar to a bylaw recently introduced in Radium Hot Springs, B.C.

'Stop feeding the birds'

"We're not doing wildlife any favours by feeding them," said Wilke.

"This sort of compassion creates unnatural conditions and when they concentrate in the community they can become a problem."

Wilke also said hunting the birds is not an option, as it is illegal to hunt within city limits.

For now, he is hoping a public education campaign will help address the problem.

"The best course of all is to try to encourage people to stop feeding the birds," he said.

"If that doesn't work, I think we'll see about getting a bylaw."

Holmes says the turkeys are quite often found in huge groups and their gobbling sounds can get 'pretty loud.' (Mark Holmes)

With files from CBC's Daybreak South and Chris Walker.

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.