NewsMontana and Regional News


Too many turkeys in this Montana neighborhood

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Posted at 1:18 PM, Jun 14, 2024

BILLINGS – Rimrock Road area resident Carol Van Keuren takes special care of her spring and summer gardens.

But when the turkeys come around, she says, it spells trouble for her blooms.

“It’s damaging property,” she said. “And it’s not just me. It's other people.”

On any given day, if you live or drive in the Rimrock Road and Zimmerman Trail areas, you will be met with a gang of turkeys.

Van Keuren says along with backing up traffic, they damage her property.

“Some of them weigh as much as 30 pounds,” she said. “They broke a lattice in the back, they broke our gate. They mow down the plants. They just walk down and flatten everything.”

Those with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks say they have tips for residents to deal with the turkeys passing along non-lethal hazing techniques including, loud noises, spray bottles and chasing without making physical contact.

The city of Billings tells MTN News it helped share that advice to residents.

However, Van Keuren sees it differently, saying both agencies could do more to curb the impact of the urban turkeys.

“The City Council will tell homeowners how many backyard chickens they can have but they won’t limit the number of turkeys running around here, and the fish and game won’t do anything without the directive from council,” she said.

So, in response the Rimrock Neighborhood Task Force is taking action too, trying to gauge how many residents in the area are dealing with problems from the turkeys through a survey.

While Fish, Wildlife and Parks said they’re not sure how many turkeys are lingering in the city, Sheila Hancock McKay says she believes it could be as many as 500.

“It’s a mixed flock, and that’s one of the big problems,” said Hancock McKay.

She owns and operates a WJH Bird Resources in the West End, a rehabilitation habitat for waterfowl.

She says the flock was introduced to the area in the 1950s by wildlife officials and brought here from Wyoming.

She believes the solution to the turkey trouble is a multi-agency response. She says the highway department could provide turkey crossing areas on major roads and suggests enlisting biologists who’ve dealt with flocks in other cities.

But in the meantime, she adds hazing them will help residents stay safe in the short term.

“The best way to get a turkey to leave you alone is to open an umbrella, preferably a black umbrella,” she said.

“I think they should do what Casper, Wyoming does. They let the game wardens come in and actually cull the flocks,” said Van Keuren.

In addition to hazing, Fish, Wildlife and Parks asks residents to not feed the turkeys, either intentionally or unintentionally.

People can get fined as much as $1,000 for feeding wildlife.