JEFFERSON — The city of Jefferson is taking steps to reduce its wild turkey population without having to shoot a large number of them, said Gregg Gorthy, the city’s code enforcement officer.
There are between 50 and 60 wild turkeys living in three groups within the city limits.
The steps include asking the people who are feeding the fowl to stop and urging residents bothered by the birds to get a permit from the city so they can haze the turkeys in hopes of encouraging them to relocate outside the city limits.
In late February, the city council passed an ordinance designed in part to prevent wildlife from living inside the city limits and potentially becoming a nuisance. The ordinance gave the city the authority to obtain permits from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to have the birds shot.
The city was preparing to get the permits when resident Lori Hayhurst asked if she and others could trap and move the turkeys to another county. The whole process became too complicated, partly because of game regulations, so the city called a meeting to determine if there were other ways to deal with the turkeys that now are third and fourth generation residents, Gorthy said.
Hayhurst met Monday at city hall with Gorthy, public works director Steve Human, and Nancy Taylor and Anne Mary Myers of ODFW to hear how the state suggests the city deal with the turkeys.
“Basically it’s going to be an education process,” Gorthy said. “We’re telling people who don’t know that there is a new ordinance that doesn’t allow people to feed wildlife inside the city limits. We are explaining that turkeys congregate, stay and roost where the feed is. We are also telling them that certain types of hazing methods are allowed to get the birds to move away.”
Turkeys don’t like to be sprayed with water, have a laser pointer aimed at them, see dangling silver Mylar or encounter scarecrows or motion-activated sprinklers.
Bright lights and noise can be used to disturb roosting turkeys.
Some people have complained to the city that the birds scratch the paint on vehicles, peck the grit off of roofs and tear up shrubbery and ground cover. Some males can be aggressive toward people, especially during the mating season.
Other residents have told officials the turkeys are cute and they enjoy having them around and don’t want to see them go.
The city has gone ahead and obtained permits from ODFW that will allow a hunter to shoot three of the male turkeys, probably early Tuesday morning. Originally, a Marion County deputy was to shoot the birds but the sheriff’s office didn’t want an employee killing the turkeys so the job will fall to a trained, safe hunter, Gorthy said.
When males, especially the older ones, are taken from a flock, the birds tend to disperse, he said.
The dead birds will go to Scio for processing and the meat will be taken to some lower-income residents in Jefferson. The meat is all dark and tastes like pheasant, quail, grouse or prairie chicken, Gorthy said. “The turkeys eat like a free-range chicken.”
“If the turkeys stay in small groups that won’t be a big problem for the city,” he said. “It was never the city’s intent to remove all of the turkeys.”
The city will review the turkey population situation after the males are shot.
Scott Beckstead senior Oregon director of The Humane Society of the United States learned about the turkey situation in Jefferson and sent an email Thursday to the city offering to capture the problem birds and help create a longterm and humane solution to the turkey issue.
City Recorder Sarah Cook agreed to forward the email to the council.
The council did not take any action on the email at last Thursday’s council meeting.