Turkey Feeding Creates Problems

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One of the benefits of living in Idaho is the abundant wildlife, but when wildlife comes into town, it can lead to unexpected problems.

While many people enjoy these wild visitors, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) reminds the public that unexpected problems often arise when people feed wildlife near their homes.

"Feeding turkeys may seem helpful, but it often ends in unexpected conflict," says Dave Cadwallader, IDFG Regional Conservation Officer based in Lewiston. "Generally, people begin feeding only a few birds, but their numbers can quickly grow and become overwhelming."

According to Cadwallader, wild turkeys, like all wild animals, can quickly become habituated to this free food giveaway and often will not leave.

"We have had several calls recently of people complaining about how the turkeys are eating all their quail feed or roosting on top of their Cadillac and defecating on everything," he said.

According to Cadwallader, there are several additional reasons why the public is discouraged to feed wild turkeys.

Wild turkeys being fed supplementally may congregate in unnaturally high numbers, increasing the chances of disease transmission.

Naturally occurring molds and bacteria found on stored grains have been responsible for huge die offs in wild turkey flocks. Supplemental feeding of turkeys with stored grain products is ill-advised according to the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). Their policy is to only offer supplemental feed in emergency situations. Even then, they advise against feeding stored grains, with the planting of food plots in turkey winter range the preferred method of supplemental feeding.

Turkeys congregate naturally in large winter flocks for protection. Supplemental feeding may keep them grouped up longer than normal instead of wandering off and breaking up into their much smaller breeding flocks in late winter and early spring.

Supplemental feeding encourages wildlife to become dependent on food sources that are not a part of their natural diets.

Wildlife may lose their fear of humans, leading to unfortunate encounters that result in injuries and sometimes death to the animal, pets and even injury to humans.