Montreal

Wild turkeys are making their way into Quebec's urban areas, biologist warns

If you’ve spotted a wild turkey near your home, you aren’t alone. Several turkeys have been spotted strutting through streets across the province in recent months.

'We could see more and more conflicts between humans and these birds,' says Tadeusz Splawinski

Jim Elliot found this group of turkeys strutting outside his home in Blainville, Que., last November. (Submitted by Jim Elliot)

If you've spotted a wild turkey near your home, you aren't alone. Several turkeys have been spotted strutting through streets across the province in recent years. 

And with more urban developments and climate change, Canadian Wild Turkey Federation biologist Tadeusz Splawinski says the number of wild turkeys roaming around might grow even more. 

"When I was young growing up in the Laurentians, we never saw any wild turkeys. And in the last 10 years, it's gone from seeing a few here and there to seeing them almost on a daily basis," he said.

Splawinski said wild turkeys thrive in suburban areas because there is easy access to food. They're able to scrounge for nuts in people's gardens, come across bird feeders outside people's homes and search through garbage cans, he said.

And when residents offer turkeys food outright, they are even more likely to stick around longer.

"Suburban areas and urban areas provide a unique opportunity for these birds to multiply because not only are there not many predators to keep them in check, but hunting isn't permitted," said Splawinski. 

"And of course, as urban areas continue to expand and encroach on their habitat, they're kind of forced into this space with humans as well."

A hostile relationship

Turkeys and humans don't necessarily live in harmony, though. As Splawinski describes, many turkeys have been spotted charging at cars, windows, and even people.

"We could see more and more conflicts between humans and these birds," he said.

The small Quebec town of Saint-Prosper-de-Champlain learned this the hard way in December, when a wild turkey decided to take up residency in the village for about two weeks. 

As the town's mayor, France Bédard, described at the time, the turkey was spotted "stomping on car roofs, scratching up paint and scaring some of the locals." It was eventually euthanized.

Splawinski said it is hard to estimate just how many wild turkeys are roaming around Quebec's towns, but he did say there are "a lot."

Flocks of 30 to 50 birds are a common in rural areas, he said.

This turkey was seen hanging out in the area of Highways 19 and 440, in Laval, in 2014. (Laval police)

"Turkeys have already been spotted on the island of Montreal," Splawinski said. "If they've managed to get onto the island, crossing the river as a barrier, then they can pretty much make it into any other town." 

Assert your dominance

If you do come across a wild turkey, Splawinski said there are several steps you can take. 

First and foremost, it's important to assert your dominance and never run away, he said. 

"Ideally, one should step toward the turkey and and act confidently to show the bird that you're neither scared nor you're really bothered by the fact that it's there," said Splawinski.

Splawinski recommended using items such as air horns or a garden hose to scare the birds off. 

With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio and Kate McKenna

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