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Turkeys peck out their territory

Motorists say horns, vocal commands useless
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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What do you do if the turkey doesn’t want to cross the road and refuses to get out of your way? It’s a quirky conundrum that motorists at the intersection of Auburn Ravine and Marguerite Mine roads have encountered over the past few months. In late fall, two Tom turkeys started staking out their territory at the intersection and have refused to give ground no matter what comes their way, according to longtime Auburn resident Doreen Drake. “They’re just daring people to drive past them,” Drake said. “They’ve just taken up their post and they are not moving pretty much for anyone.” In fact, Drake said recently her husband was driving home down the road. When he brought his car to a halt at the three-way stop, the turkeys started pecking at one of his car’s wheels. Drake said she’s seen a line of about four to five cars deep back up at the stop sign, waiting for the first car to bravely face the tough turkeys. “It’s interesting because there are some folks pretty puzzled,” Drake said. “I think they’re afraid they’re going to run them down.” Drake said she’s seen some drivers get out of their cars and try — unsuccessfully — to motion the birds out of the road. Most, she said, just slowly move forward and nudge the birds out of the way. Christine Turner, Placer County agricultural commissioner and sealer of weights and measures, said she’s come across the birds a time or two when she’s taken that route. “I tooted my horn and they didn’t move,” Turner said. “I rolled down my window and said, ‘You guys have to move off the road.’” Did it work? “No!” Turner exclaimed, laughing. Turner said she kept moving forward at a slow speed and eventually the turkeys moved out of the road, not fazed by her efforts. “You would think they owned the road,” Turner said. Turner said that the Agricultural office, which handles issues relating to wildlife vs. man, said no one has called to complain about the bold turkeys. She added that her office would be more likely to intervene when wild animals interfere with property. She said she’s noticed an increase in the number of wild turkeys gobbling up public space lately. “Their population has really grown over the last, say, 10 years,” Turner said. “I used to never see wild turkeys ever and now I see wild turkeys probably at least once a week.” Kyle Orr, spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Game headquarters in Sacramento, said the state doesn’t conduct annual surveys of turkey populations so it’s hard to pinpoint how much its grown over the years. However, he said there are roughly 240,000 wild turkeys in California with the large birds pecking out their place in nearly every county. Orr said he cautioned nearby residents to avoid feeding turkeys or having food available for them. “There are times when turkeys become a nuisance,” Orr said. “Our department stressed that people do not become comfortable and not feed turkeys because feeding brings the problem home to roost.” For now, Drake said she and other drivers seem to be taking the feathered stop sign guards in stride. And, as Drake said, it’s a nice reminder of Auburn’s rural charm. “It’s something you don’t usually see on a day-to-day basis,” Drake said. “It’s just a great reminder that nature is always there no matter where we are.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com.