Pesky Ottawa turkeys prompt Christmas warning

A gang of wild turkeys in a south Ottawa neighbourhood has resulted in more than 20 complaints to police, who are now advising people to drive carefully and be quiet if they see the turkeys.

Wild turkeys the "new driving danger" in Ottawa outskirts, according to Wild Bird Care Centre

Wild turkeys that have moved into a south Ottawa neighbourhood have led to more than 20 complaints, according to Ottawa police, who have released advice on how to deal with the turkeys.

The complaints have flooded in over the past 40 days regarding at least four turkeys in the area of Strandherd Road and Longfields Drive in Barrhaven, police said.

Crab apple trees on a Barrhaven seniors' residence lawn are a popular destination for hungry turkeys. (CBC)

People at the seniors’ residence, The Court at Barrhaven, were some of those who complained about the birds being a nuisance. After CBC News reported the complaints, many area residents said they had actually seen "dozens" of turkeys in that area.

The protected birds are moving out of their natural habitat in search of food, according to the Wild Bird Care Centre in Ottawa. The centre has received one to two calls a day from people worried about the birds' safety over the last month.

"This is the new driving danger in Ottawa in the outskirts," said Patty Summers, a care centre worker.

The province estimates there are about 70,000 wild turkeys in southern and eastern Ontario. The birds were reintroduced in Ontario in the 1980s for hunting, with about 8,000 hunted this year.

But hunters have said going after the wild turkey is not feasible due to the cost and short seasons. As a result, more wild turkeys are wandering free.

Drive with caution, stay quiet, police say

Until the turkeys relocate, police are telling residents to take the following precautions:

Lorenzo Andrews said the birds chased him across the seniors' residence after he came upon them. (CBC)
  • Drive with caution in the area.
  • Do not feed these animals as this contribute to the problem. 
  • Turkeys do not like loud noises, such as horns. They will run or fly at the sign of danger.
  • Similar to groundhogs, deer, skunks and other wildlife, turkeys will normally wander off. Call police only if the turkeys present a pressing threat to safety. 
  • Be cautious around turkeys, especially if you are with children or walking a dog. Turkeys have a spur on their leg for protection and are fierce if provoked.
  • It is against the law to hunt or shoot a turkey in the Barrhaven area: the fine is $2,000. 

Officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources have also said people can limit conflicts with wild turkeys by not feeding them, removing bird feeders and putting netting over berries and other plants that turkeys eat.

Because the birds are protected, the city, the province and even animal control companies can only trap and relocate them one kilometre away.

The bird care centre said they expect the turkeys to head back into the woods after Friday's storm.