Turkeys on Campus

Wild Turkeys Spotted on Campus

Wild turkeys spotted on the University of Minnesota campus!

It’s hard to ignore them loitering around the U of M Mississippi river area. It’s even harder to miss them when the thought of Thanksgiving turkey is just around the corner. As Tom Ritzer puts it, “they are part of the dynamic campus environment.” But why are these birds here in an urban setting? A simple answer to this question is the fact that the turkey population has increased exponentially over the past 25 years. There are now over 70,000 turkeys in Minnesota alone, and according to the DNR, “as both the human and turkey populations expand in Minnesota it is only natural to expect that increasing interactions will occur.” The DNR states that these big birds are found commonly near river bottoms, and are flocking over to southeastern Minnesota by following the Mississippi, the Minnesota, the St. Croix and the Rum rivers.

These wild birds are now becoming city birds and the turkeys don’t seem to mind. However, we may feel a little differently about our new neighbors and see them more as a nuisance. On campus, they damage lawns pecking for food, and dirty sidewalks by roosting in trees (particularly bad by the East River Road garage). Also, they aren’t the friendliest of fowl. In fact, they are generally aggressive towards pedestrians. This sort of aggression is called “pecking order,” which means that turkeys are trying to assert dominance. Some turkeys, usually males, can show their aggression by chasing us. We can all avoid exacerbating the problem by not feeding them.

Now, don’t get any funny ideas and whip out your favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe if you see a turkey crossing your path, there are various city ordinances that prevent hunting in city limits. Looks like you’ll need to get your turkey meal elsewhere. You’ll have plenty to choose from because...

Minnesota is the top turkey-producing state in America, with about 49 million produced annually. At the U of M, we have dedicated faculty focused on turkey research and a history of close collaboration with the MN Turkey Growers Association.

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Great team work!