Residents at Moorhead meeting overwhelmingly favor ban on feeding wild turkeys

Turkeys bask in the sunshine in south Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD — When Deputy Police Chief Tory Jacobson asked how many of the 70 residents who attended a meeting on the wild turkeys in Moorhead favored restrictions on feeding the birds, a vast majority raised their hands.

It was perhaps one of the telling moments in a more than hourlong discussion on Wednesday night, Jan. 8, in City Hall between city officials and residents about the 300 birds that roam the city mostly in neighborhoods close to the Red River.

Brett Bernath, who lives in southern Moorhead, was one of the more vocal opponents to the birds as he said he and his family live with about 20 birds that roost in a tree in his backyard "day in and day out."

"We live with their filth, " he said about the "dog-size" droppings that cover his yard.


"They are beautiful birds and I could watch them all day, but I didn't choose to live with them," he said.

Although it's illegal to hunt the birds in the city limits, he said he would like to "kill all 20 of them."

Marie Risdal, who lives in the Oakport neighborhood in north Moorhead, said she is seeing and hearing more and more coyotes in her area and believes they are there because they are a predator for the wild turkeys.

"I think the coyotes should be a serious consideration," Risdal said as she believes they could become a secondary wild animal problem in the city.

She also was worried the coyotes could take after domestic animals and added that the turkeys affect her ability to garden.

Postal worker Ryan West offered another perspective on the issue as he said there are three to eight "toms" who see his truck every day and then "swarm me, surround me" on his north Moorhead route.

He said they trip him and even peck at him.


Air horns that he was given to try to scare them away "don't do anything."

He said the birds are affecting his ability to do his job efficiently.

However, not all at the meeting were against having the birds in the city. Zenas Baer said turkeys that surround his home are "my friends."

"We have to live with them," he said. "We can't kick the turkeys off the ark."

"We need to live in harmony rather than be conquering, killing and controlling," Baer said.

Jacobson said the goal of the meeting was to gain input from city residents as they prepare a comprehensive turkey management plan, which the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources suggested the city prepare if they were to give permits to remove some turkeys from parts of the city.

He told the crowd that they once thought they had a partial answer to the growing population as the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks had planned to take about 70 birds to the eastern part of their state, but then determined that they were "too urbanized."

Jacobson noted that police have had only 30 calls in the past three years about the birds, although most were questions about baby turkeys or eggs.


Those in the audience, however, responded by saying they have seen many instances of the birds being aggressive and some didn't call because there was nothing the police could or would do anyway.

So the turkeys didn't have many supporters at the meeting, although in many social media posts in the past many residents have favored keeping the birds in the city and even some at the meeting noted that they have become "a novelty" in the city.

Besides a ban on feeding the turkeys, there was some talk at the meeting about having a benchmark or certain number of birds that would be allowed to remain in the city limits and a Minnesota State University Moorhead professor said they have put oil on eggs to try to control the geese population for American Crystal Sugar Co. and that it could be a more humane option for controlling the turkey population, too.

Whatever is decided it just may come down to adding wild turkeys to the current city law that prohibits the feeding of deer in the city limits at a level below 5 feet. That level is in the law so people can still have feeders for other birds.

Moorhead turkey meeting.jpg
Moorhead Deputy Police Chief Tory Jacobson led a discussion on Wednesday night, Jan. 8, about the wild turkey situation in the city and plans to create a management plan. About 70 people attended the meeting. Barry Amundson / The Forum

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