Tod's Blog

Adventures with family & friends and other things I'm passionate about…

Why Do You Hate Your Neighbors?

Posted by todblog on February 23, 2013

Douglas County, has the reputation for being the wild turkey capitol of Oregon. There are a lot of birds in the oak woodland/savannah habitat abundant in the lower elevations of the Umpqua Valley floor. That also happens to be where most of the private land occurs and is either agricultural or residentially developed land. So, turkeys like the same places that people do…rolling hillsides with oak trees. Can they coexist with people?

It depends. If you’re talking about large farms and ranches where the landowner has a direct connection with the land, I’d say most likely yes. These folks are raising livestock and work with animals on a day-to-day basis. Seeing turkeys is no big deal. It’s very likely they see turkeys around the barn opportunistically feeding on some spilled grain. Move a little closer to town and it’s a whole different story.

The folks in town on the smaller properties don’t usually have the same connection to the land as their country counterparts. These folks are plugged into nature via cable TV’s Animal Planet channel. For some, that is enough. Others want more.

It usually starts out as a novelty where it’s neat to see turkeys in your backyard. Some folks just can’t leave them alone, they feel compelled to “take care” of the animals, as if the critters can’t fend for themselves. At first, some folks will start to place food outside for the turkeys and that’s when the turkeys become less wary and more habituated to people. Other folks may have bird feeders up for song birds to use but, the turkeys don’t know that. They also don’t know that cat and dog chow isn’t for them either. Unintentional or not, the result is the same, feeding turkeys sets-up an expectation, “I get food from people“. This is usually the beginning of the end for the critters, and a recipe for disaster.

Turkeys like other wildlife don’t want to work any harder to get their next meal than they have to. We’re no different. It’s a conservation of energy thing. Turkeys are smart when it comes to finding food. They will make their daily rounds through neighborhoods visiting bird feeders and people who leave food out for them or their pets.

It starts out as a few birds and over time it can add up to a big flock especially in the winter when turkeys tend to congregate. That’s usually when the novelty is gone and the phone rings.

Caller: “Come get your damn turkeys out of my yard!”
Response: “Are you or someone in your neighborhood feeding them?”
Caller: “NO, I ain’t feeding these #$^%&* things but, the neighbor down the street is feeding em”

The strange thing about these calls is they are so predictable. It will inevitably turn out to be one person who chucks out old bread, muffins, cracked corn, and whatever else they feel to be appropriate for their daily visiting friends- the turkeys. They are usually very tolerant of birds on the roof or on the car and all the turkey poo being deposited on their driveway, deck, porch, patio, etc. Worse is tracking poo into their home as they go in and out of their house. It’s just plain nasty. After seeing people live under those conditions, I just don’t understand why my wife fusses about our house needing to get cleaned up all the time. Heck, I’m thinking we can eat off the floors no problem. I guess people have choices on how they want to live and that’s fine but, when you’re feeding 20- 70 birds each day you are impacting the entire neighborhood beyond just your street. Sadly, these feeders are oblivious to their neighbors and the issues that arise from feeding gone wild. It’s not just a sanitation thing, people complain about damage to their landscaping and the bigger problem…

“I’m calling to report that I saw a cougar in my backyard…”

Remember the conservation of energy thing. Why work any harder than you have to applies to the big cat who has stumbled upon this large backyard buffet compliments of the friendly wildlife feeder. Yum… It’s hard to tell if the cougar is showing up for the turkeys or all the deer that have been taking advantage of the cracked corn put out for the turkeys. Bottom line- Don’t feed wildlife. It’s just not a good thing to artificially concentrate a bunch of wild animals in a small area. They get habituated to an artificial situation, become aggressive, share diseases in close quarters (like kids in day care), draw in predators, and it may actually be harmful nutritionally to wildlife.

I’m thinking the Discovery Channel needs to add another show to their programming,….Why Do You Hate Your Neighbors? or a shorter name would be- Feeders. It can be aired on TV just after Hoarders.

If you’re interested to see how we catch a large flock of turkeys at one time, here’s a link to a video showing the use of a Rocket Net.


Tubs in yard full of grain. Turkeys artificially concentrate in the area. Neighbors aren’t happy.


A small flock of turkeys scratching around in a backyard after being fed by a neighbor.


Toms re-arranging the landscaping- scratchin’ the bark mulch.



Hens on the roof playing hard to get


Turkey “calling cards” on lawns, driveways, and porches. Not easy to get out of shag carpet. My phone rings.


Volunteers assembling boxes in preparation for transporting captured turkeys.


Boxes ready and waiting for turkeys to show


Turkeys chowing down on the cracked corn bait with charged rockets ready to go overhead.


Banding and boxing turkeys prior to transporting out-of-town.


This deer was killed crossing the road as it came from the “chow line” that it shared with the turkeys.


Feeding wildlife is just a bad idea.      DON’T DO IT!      In this case, the message is for Florida Key Deer.


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