wild turkeys

Bulletin photo by Ethan Weston

Wild turkeys congregate in a lawn along North Burritt Avenue on Tuesday. The city of Buffalo will consider an ordinance that would ban the feeding of wild turkeys.

The city of Buffalo will consider amending an ordinance that would prohibit residents from feeding wild turkeys. 

Both the city and Wyoming Game and Fish Department have received complaints about the number of turkeys congregating both in people’s yards and on city streets, sometimes disrupting traffic and leaving droppings and messes in their wake. 

Aside from passing an ordinance to prevent residents from feeding turkeys, the city does not have authority over the animals because they are considered game, according to previous Bulletin reporting. And Game and Fish’s only option is trapping and relocating them, which the agency’s public information officer Christina Schmidt called “a last resort.” 

“It only provides short-term relief from nuisance activity,” she said. “Trapping is stressful on the birds, and not all relocations are successful.”

The most long-term solution to the problem, Schmidt said, is refraining from feeding the animals in the first place. And the city enforcing an ordinance that would keep residents from doing so would help, she said.

Terry Asay, the city’s building inspector and person in charge of the planning department, will ask the City Council at its next meeting to include turkeys and other game birds in an existing no-feeding ordinance. 

“We have no way of halting this,” he said. “People are out there feeding them, and they’ve become such a nuisance. The ordinance will put a little bite behind the bark. We can issue a citation if people are caught feeding them, in hopes of discouraging it.”

Buffalo is one of a few Wyoming cities that has a no-feeding ordinance for big game, though it specifies fur-bearing animals. Per city ordinance, it is unlawful to make contact with big game animals within city limits, which includes administering food or liquids or any other action that would diminish the “​​capacity of said wildlife to subsequently survive in the wild independent of human aid and subsistence.” 

Asay said the amended ordinance would include game birds.

In 2015, Wyoming lawmakers considered prohibiting the feeding of big and trophy game animals statewide to prevent the animals from gathering in urban areas. That bill ultimately failed. 

Despite that, Game and Fish discourages the public from feeding any wildlife. 

While intentions may be good, artificial feeding can be detrimental to wild animals, Schmidt said. 

“Turkeys have plenty of natural food sources available, and artificial feeding does not benefit them,” she said. “There will always be some turkeys in town as there are natural food sources there.”

Turkeys primarily eat plant materials, insects and berries.

Artificial feeding is what causes the turkeys to congregate in groups that could have up to 40 turkeys, Asay previously told the Bulletin. Such behavior, while annoying to humans, could also spread disease or parasites among the animals, especially as highly pathogenic avian influenza continues to spread and kill birds. In the past year, 13 wild turkeys have died from HPAI, including three southwest of Buffalo.

Congregating animals can also lure predators, such as coyotes or mountain lions, into the area.

And turkey feces, specifically, is uniquely harmful for dogs. 

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that can be transmitted to dogs if they eat bird poop. Eating bird droppings can also expose dogs to bacteria such as salmonella, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea and other health problems, according to Pet MD.

Asay said that the ordinance would not include songbirds, meaning residents can still have bird feeders that are a certain height to deter turkeys. 

“We all like game animals, just don’t feed them,” Asay said. “We will be able to cite people that are found feeding them.”

If there is support for the amendment, it will go through three readings before it is enforceable. 

“It doesn’t benefit them,” Schmidt said of artificial feeding. “It can sometimes harm them, which is not what folks want. I don’t think anyone wants any harm to come to them, but really there is the potential for harm to the birds.”

 

The city of Buffalo will consider amending an ordinance that would prohibit residents from feeding wild turkeys. 

Both the city and Wyoming Game and Fish Department have received complaints about the number of turkeys congregating both in people’s yards and on city streets, sometimes disrupting traffic and leaving droppings and messes in their wake. 

Aside from passing an ordinance to prevent residents from feeding turkeys, the city does not have authority over the animals because they are considered game, according to previous Bulletin reporting. And Game and Fish’s only option is trapping and relocating them, which the agency’s public information officer Christina Schmidt called “a last resort.” 

“It only provides short-term relief from nuisance activity,” she said. “Trapping is stressful on the birds, and not all relocations are successful.”

The most long-term solution to the problem, Schmidt said, is refraining from feeding the animals in the first place. And the city enforcing an ordinance that would keep residents from doing so would help, she said.

Terry Asay, the city’s building inspector and person in charge of the planning department, will ask the City Council at its next meeting to include turkeys and other game birds in an existing no-feeding ordinance. 

“We have no way of halting this,” he said. “People are out there feeding them, and they’ve become such a nuisance. The ordinance will put a little bite behind the bark. We can issue a citation if people are caught feeding them, in hopes of discouraging it.”

Buffalo is one of a few Wyoming cities that has a no-feeding ordinance for big game, though it specifies fur-bearing animals. Per city ordinance, it is unlawful to make contact with big game animals within city limits, which includes administering food or liquids or any other action that would diminish the “​​capacity of said wildlife to subsequently survive in the wild independent of human aid and subsistence.” 

Asay said the amended ordinance would include game birds.

In 2015, Wyoming lawmakers considered prohibiting the feeding of big and trophy game animals statewide to prevent the animals from gathering in urban areas. That bill ultimately failed. 

Despite that, Game and Fish discourages the public from feeding any wildlife. 

While intentions may be good, artificial feeding can be detrimental to wild animals, Schmidt said. 

“Turkeys have plenty of natural food sources available, and artificial feeding does not benefit them,” she said. “There will always be some turkeys in town as there are natural food sources there.”

Turkeys primarily eat plant materials, insects and berries.

Artificial feeding is what causes the turkeys to congregate in groups that could have up to 40 turkeys, Asay previously told the Bulletin. Such behavior, while annoying to humans, could also spread disease or parasites among the animals, especially as highly pathogenic avian influenza continues to spread and kill birds. In the past year, 13 wild turkeys have died from HPAI, including three southwest of Buffalo.

Congregating animals can also lure predators, such as coyotes or mountain lions, into the area.

And turkey feces, specifically, is uniquely harmful for dogs. 

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that can be transmitted to dogs if they eat bird poop. Eating bird droppings can also expose dogs to bacteria such as salmonella, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea and other health problems, according to Pet MD.

Asay said that the ordinance would not include songbirds, meaning residents can still have bird feeders that are a certain height to deter turkeys. 

“We all like game animals, just don’t feed them,” Asay said. “We will be able to cite people that are found feeding them.”

If there is support for the amendment, it will go through three readings before it is enforceable. 

“It doesn’t benefit them,” Schmidt said of artificial feeding. “It can sometimes harm them, which is not what folks want. I don’t think anyone wants any harm to come to them, but really there is the potential for harm to the birds.”

 

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