Wild turkeys in Edina are ruffling the feathers of some residents who say the urban birds are becoming more aggressive, but the city's animal control officer said they're being managed and don't really pose a danger.
"Something being aggressive is a subjective interpretation," said Timothy Hunter. "People are accustomed to birds flying away when you walk up to them, and turkeys don't ... [They] think they rule the roost."
So far this year, Edina police have received 18 calls regarding turkeys, mostly reports that they were blocking the road or that one was injured. Some asked the city to remove a dead turkey or relocate them to a safer location.
In one case back in January, a resident reported that turkeys were "attacking" their mail carrier, according to dispatch logs.
While Hunter said the turkeys are not a threat, the behavior of territorial turkeys can be interpreted as intimidating. The safety risks, he said, typically stem from human reaction to turkeys — like slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting them, or a child running from them into traffic.
"The vast majority of human-wildlife conflict is generated because of what humans do," he said.
At the peak of Edina's turkey population from November 2016 to March 2017, 32 turkeys were removed by shooting. Hunter said the city averages anywhere from 12 to 20 removals each year.
Though the number of turkeys in Edina is unknown, Hunter said there's anecdotal evidence that the population has been growing — but added the same is true for any city in the metro area.
One resident of the Parkwood Knolls neighborhood, Roger Scharton, shared in a recent Nextdoor post that "as their numbers grow risk increases" for injury and property damage.
But Hunter said that removing all the turkeys isn't realistic. Moreover, they're killed rather than relocated because relocation requires more resources and ultimately proves fruitless because of the territorial nature of turkeys.
"Management plans are truly management, not removal," he said. "We would never be successful at utterly removing turkeys from Edina because the turkeys from Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Bloomington would move in."
Bloomington residents were upset last November when the Department of Natural Resources killed a turkey named Penny that hung around the intersection of W. 90th Street and Penn Avenue. People frequently fed the young male French fries from fast food drive-throughs.
DNR spokesman Harland Hiemstra said at the time that it was like "issuing a death warrant" for Penny, who lost his fear of humans and was eventually shot by the DNR following reports that he had pecked a motorcyclist and accosted nearby customers.
In 2019, the Moorhead City Council considered relocating 75 wild turkeys to South Dakota, but the deal with that state's Game, Fish and Parks Department never took flight. Hunter said he didn't foresee taking such extreme management plans in Edina. Instead, he uses DNR municipal permits to remove turkeys and other wildlife as needed.
When residents report nuisance turkeys, city officials discourage feeding and encourage removal of temptations like bird feeders. Several years ago, when a church congregation said two turkeys were posing a risk to seniors and children at a nearby day care, it turned out that someone was feeding them, Hunter said. The turkeys were removed.
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751