Wild turkeys roam the city

Wild turkeys are walking in the middle of town

A wild turkey traveling with a group of five birds was seen by a citizen in an industrial zone in the west of the island, near the Technoparc Montréal, on the 9 last April.

The wild turkeys are back in Montreal. Several residents have reported an encounter with this big bird, whether in Dorval, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve or even in the city center of the metropolis. As the number of reports multiplies, questions re-emerge: Are wild turkeys dangerous? Is the presence of these animals in town abnormal?

“The pandemic was certainly able to facilitate access to the island of Montreal because there was less human presence on the streets, says biologist and director general of the Zoo Ecomuseum, David Rodrigue. However, the wild turkey had already been booming for about twenty years, with in particular the warmer temperatures, a phenomenon which helps it to have access to resources for longer in addition to increasing its rate of reproduction.”

Wild turkeys walking around in the middle of town

A wild turkey was seen in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve on the steps of a residence overlooking the alley between Aird and Bennett avenues. Photo: Screenshot, Facebook

No danger, but

David Rodrigue maintains that the wild turkey is not dangerous for human beings and that it is even quite harmless. However, the bird can react aggressively in self-defense, either when a human tries to capture it or when a pet gets too close. The City of Montreal even suggests scaring away the turkey with noise or by using an object, such as an umbrella or a stick, to keep it at a distance and scare it. This last method would be the best way to handle an encounter with the bird.

“The only real risks are when the male is breeding and he is going to defend the harem from females he is with. At this time, if we get too close to the bird, it can attack us with its claws and cause serious injury. Same thing for pets; I do not recommend approaching a group of wild turkeys if you are with a dog, for example,” says Mr. Rodrigue.

But for the general manager, the danger would rather be that humans get into the habit of feeding wild turkeys. This encourages them to stay in less hospitable areas, which can cause problems for car traffic or for cyclists.

“I repeat: the best way to kill a wild animal is to start feeding it with our food. It’s a species that adapts well, and it’s sure will group together and eat in garbage cans, near feeders and where humans feed them. It’s a big bird, so we can say that the more there are, the greater the risk of collisions with cars, and also with cyclists, who have less protection.”

A turkey on the shed

As for the presence of turkeys in densely urbanized areas, like the one spotted Monday in a parking lot in downtown Montreal and which had to be evacuated by the SPVM because it was out of control, this is not unusual. It is also not unusual to see turkeys perched on high places in certain alleys. It is a means of self-defense used by the animal to avoid being on the ground at night and to limit cases of attacks by predators.

Wild turkeys walking around in the middle of town

The same turkey spotted this time on a shed in the alley between Aird and Bennett avenues. The latter died on Monday, electrocuted on the electric wires after he tried to take off. Photo: Screenshot, Facebook

“Wild turkeys hide high up. They give themselves a boost and take flight to climb into the trees to protect themselves from predators, explains David Rodrigue. It’s a way for them to defend themselves, and it’s quite plausible for turkeys in urban areas to climb onto a shed or onto the balcony of a property to spend the night there.

Wildlife on the rise in Montreal

Due to the increased presence of turkeys in Quebec, the government allowed it to be hunted again, setting an annual limit of three wild turkeys per citizen. But it’s not just hunters who benefit from the increased turkey population; this is also the case for coyotes, a natural predator that is increasingly present in Montreal, particularly in the east end of the city.

“Along with the expansion of the turkey population, coyotes also multiply in Montreal, specifies Mr. Rodrigue. Coyotes naturally hunt wild turkeys, so there may be more and more cases of cross-species aggression. It should also be mentioned that the raccoon will often steal the eggs of wild turkeys from their nests to eat them.”

Other species are also experiencing population growth in the metropolis. This is the case with the fox, as six cubs were seen at Parc Jean-Drapeau on April 17. Fortunately for the wild turkey, the fox is not one of its natural predators. David Rodrigue reminds us that it’s important not to feed the cubs either because their survival may depend on it.

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