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Wild turkeys are a familiar sight in Citrus Heights

Turkeys shown outside Sylvan Oaks Library in Citrus Heights. // CH Sentinel

By Thomas J. Sullivan–
Nuisance or neighborhood asset, wild turkeys are quite a familiar sight in many neighborhoods of Citrus Heights.

While driving, often when least expecting it, residents have become accustomed to seeing turkeys in full plumage proudly strutting across the road in various parts of the city. Posted street signs in known turkey habitat areas have even been installed to help alert drivers to the presence of wild turkeys ahead.

The size of the wild turkey population in the city of Citrus Heights differs depending on whom you ask.

Jayna Karpinski-Costa, president of Sylvan Old Auburn Road (SOAR) neighborhood association, said she believes the wild turkey population could be in the thousands.

“I think I’ve seen them in Citrus Heights since at least 1991,” she said. While Karpinski-Costa enjoys watching the large birds stroll through her neighborhood, she’s been a long-time advocate for more signage to alert local motorists to the traffic hazard turkeys crossing the road can create.

Related: Annual ‘Turkey Shoot’ contest resumes in Citrus Heights

 A “Turkey Crossing” sign was posted by the city on Highland Avenue, where turkeys have been caught on camera crossing the street.

Mary Poole, operations manager for the City of Citrus Heights also said the city has placed turkey crossing signs on westbound Auburn Boulevard, west of Van Maren; and on Van Maren Lane, south of Auburn Boulevard.

Wild turkeys are a common sight at the Sylvan Oaks Library and within the SOAR neighborhood, which consists of Sylvan Road to the west, Old Auburn Road to the north, Sunrise to the east and Greenback to the south.

CHPD Community Service Officer Larissa Wasilevsky said wild turkeys account for less than one percent of service calls for the city’s Animal Control Services, since Jan. 1 of this year.

“They aren’t considered a significant health problem or a public safety concern,” she said. “Turkeys also do not migrate long distances. They do seasonally move around the city to different habitats, so the concentration is not specific to any one area.”

Citrus Heights Mayor Jeannie Bruins said the historical origins of the city’s wild turkey population aren’t clear, but she believes the general population has increased.

“The (turkey) population has certainly grown, but I really don’t know what to attribute that to,” she said. “Perhaps it’s because they have no natural predators here.”

Asked whether the city has ever considered recognizing its prominent feathered wildlife attraction in a way similar to Fair Oaks, where a “Chicken Festival” is held each year, the mayor said turkeys so far haven’t come up in discussion for future events.

“There is interest in having a signature event in Citrus Heights, but turkeys have not been part of that discussion,” Bruins said. “It’s an interesting thought, although many people consider them a nuisance, and may not want to wrap a special event around them.”

Bruins said while she finds the turkeys amusing, she has heard from some residents who “find them destructive because they fly onto their rooftops, cars and fences and leave a mess.”

“I had an email recently from a resident suggesting rounding them up and relocating them,” Bruins told The Sentinel. “Because they aren’t domesticated pets and aren’t owned by anyone, they don’t fall within the purview of animal control.”

The city’s Animal Control Services offers some important “Turkey Tips” to keep in mind.

  • A turkey’s diet usually consists of nuts, fruits, grains, insects, and various grasses. Residents should eliminate potential food sources such as bird feeders, unsecured garbage, or even dog and cat food whenever possible.
  • If turkeys are causing problems in your yard, install a motion-detecting sprinkler or spray them with water. If their environment is not comfortable, they will typically find a new place to roost.
  • Wild turkeys will typically not enter yards with dogs.
  • During breeding season (approximately between February-May) wild turkeys may display more dominance though they rarely make aggressive physical contact with humans.
  • If confronted by a wild turkey during breeding season, be assertive, dominant, and show the turkey you’re in control. Opening an umbrella, spraying it with water, clapping, or making loud noises may help move it on its way.
  • Avoid sudden stops or swerving when encountering turkeys in the roadway. If safe to do so, slow down to 10 mph and proceed. The turkeys will move out of the way.

“The biggest message Animal Services wants to get out to the general public is to not encourage them to feed wildlife,” Wasilevsky said.

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