Moorhead moves closer to wild turkey feeding ban

The city has an estimated 158 wild turkeys in three flocks that have attracted complaints over the years.

Two wild turkeys play a game of chicken with an oncoming car on Moorhead's First Avenue North near Third Street as seen April 25, 2013. Forum file photo

MOORHEAD — After years of discussion on what to do about flocks of wild turkeys roaming through Moorhead, city leaders are poised to take measures to keep the population under control.

On Monday night, Dec. 14, the Moorhead City Council unanimously passed the first reading of a proposal to include turkeys in an existing ordinance that bans feeding wildlife in city limits.

Final approval is still needed for the change to take effect.

City Council Member Sara Watson Curry, whose north Moorhead ward is frequented by the turkeys, said the birds can be a nuisance and have been known to chase a neighborhood mail carrier. Residents have also complained of wild turkeys on their property and droppings on sidewalks and playgrounds.

"(There's) plenty of feed for the turkeys along the river corridor," Watson Curry said in supporting the ban. "This won't harm the turkeys but will protect their wild beauty."


Watson Curry also noted it was clear that a majority of the 70 residents who attended a community meeting on the issue last January wanted a feeding ban.

Moorhead has an estimated 158 wild turkeys in three flocks, a number determined through a drone flyover and vehicle check conducted last winter. The turkeys are often found crossing streets and wandering into neighborhoods, as well as in city parks, playgrounds and golf courses.

"They are free roaming," said Deputy Police Chief Tory Jacobson, who has been working on the issue for years.

"We have a lot of wildlife enthusiasts in the city and they will continue to see the birds run freely," Jacobson said. "They are a wonderful creature, and a lot of people have a love for them."

However, the city of Moorhead hopes to stop residents from feeding the birds, the deputy chief said. He explained that violating the ban would be a misdemeanor, but the city will take an educational approach with residents at first.

Jacobson added it is pretty easy for officials to figure out where feeding is happening, and there have been similar problems with deer in the past.

City leaders also approved a wildlife management plan that needs to be completed and filed with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, according to Jacobson. The plan includes steps the city can take in capturing nuisance birds and controlling their population.

Police could use drop nets or baited traps to capture nuisance birds, according to the plan. Under extreme circumstances, police could shoot the birds after obtaining a DNR permit.


At one point, the city considered moving the flock to South Dakota, but game officials in that state later backed out of that proposal because of concerns that the Moorhead birds were becoming "too urbanized." Minnesota's DNR doesn't relocate wildlife, but that could change, according to the new plan.

Nuisance birds tend to be aggressive toward people and may affect day cares, churches, schools, delivery services, traffic or recreational facilities, Jacobson said. People who run into the nuisance birds can call the police, although Jacobson said those calls are rare. The city police department only gets about 10 calls a year about the turkeys, and usually, they're from residents asking questions rather than reporting nuisance or aggressive birds, he said.

Another part of the population control plan is coating eggs with corn oil to reduce the number of hatching eggs in a nest. The plan said it "has proven to be an affordable and extremely effective non-lethal and humane birth control method." Moorhead community service police officers would coat the eggs when nests are reported or discovered.

The complete plan with more details is available on the city's website.

What To Read Next
Get Local