Turkey trouble

December 28, 2018

PRESTON -- Randy and Shirlene Halford say their homeowner’s insurance won’t cover much of the recent damage to their house, based on the unique cause.

While the Halfords were out of town, a turkey broke through a window and spent about three days living inside of their house.

Regional wildlife managers say their story is one of many recent examples of wild turkeys posing an increasing nuisance in Franklin County, and elsewhere in Eastern Idaho. Based on the mounting conflicts between the wild birds and people, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has organized special depredation hunts in the area.

The Halfords returned home to find a shattered double-paned window, turkey poop covering furniture, floors and countertops and feathers in their toaster. In addition to the window, Shirlene Halford said carpeting and furniture had to be replaced. The family also had to hire a restoration company to aid in the clean-up.

“Our insurance isn’t covering much, because they don’t cover damages from domestic animals. When we said, ‘What about a wild turkey?’ the company said, ’Well it’s a bird, and we don’t cover birds.”

Merritt Horsmon, landowner and sportsman coordinator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said it was the second turkey to fly through the window of a home this winter. A turkey died upon impact after flying through a window in Pocatello, Horsmon said.

Horsmon said wild turkey populations have risen dramatically throughout the region in recent years.

Fish and Game officials recently met with Franklin County landowners to determine how best to create a balance between the wild birds and private properties. Most landowners were willing to allow hunters on their property, Horsmon said. Depredation hunts have been organized in the Cub River drainage and around a dairy in Weston, according to Fish and Game.

About 30 landowners were given half of the 120 depredation permits Fish and Game issued for the area. Those landowners may distribute them to hunters, said Horsmon. The other permits are being issued to hunters.

Horsmon said it’s tough to estimate exact turkey populations.

“Normally these (hunts) are used for one land owner. The problem is that turkeys move around so much that we needed to open up any private land we could get permission on so that the birds just didn’t move off the border until the hunt was over,” said Horsmon.

Turkeys were introduced to the area in 1990s, and Kyle Knapp, owner of Cub River Farm, said they have only caused him headaches during four or five years. Knapp said a flock has been trying to move into his hay shed.

“I’ve been chasing them out of the hay barn because they scratch and poop. Then the cows don’t want to eat the hay,” he said.

Knapp said he’s also concerned they could spread disease, and they disturb bedding cows and destroy crops. He’s skeptical that the special hunt will make much difference.

“These turkeys get pretty smart, pretty quick. You come around and they leave town pretty fast,” Knapp said. “So you just get a lot of people running around hunting them, and the turkeys run away. They are pretty sharp. They have good eyesight. Start hunting them and they head for other places pretty quick.”

For the present time, Horsmon said Fish & Game’s goal is to “push the turkeys back onto public land.”

In the Pocatello area, Fish and Game officials said they’ve received reports of turkeys harassing school children at bus stops and destroying yards. Fish and Game officials began trapping and relocating turkeys from the Pocatello Creek area.

Earlier this winter, Fish and Game euthanized more than 20 turkeys that were causing a nuisance in the Gibson Jack neighborhood in southern Pocatello.

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