I took this photo a few days ago in my local grocery store’s parking lot, where three wild turkeys stood guard near the entrance.
For a couple years now, a flock of wild turkeys has been strutting around the city where I live. The “sewer socialists” who ran Milwaukee a century ago set up an amazing system of public parks, filling the entire urban area with pockets of green space and also providing corridors for wildlife along river parkways that are lined with green space and connect many of the separate parks to each other.
These green-to-green connections have led wild animals to some highly unlikely places. Decades ago there was a deer downtown on State Street (basically the area now known as the “Deer District” surrounding the Milwaukee Bucks’ Fiserv Forum, in fact), and around fifteen years ago there was a bear up a tree right next to the freeway around Burleigh in Wauwatosa. (Public service for non-natives: BUR-lye, rhymes with “sky,” and WAH-wuh-TOE-suh, “toe” like the ones on your foot 🙂 ) We regularly see deer along the parkway near us. We’ve had foxes and coyotes in our neighborhood, and we’ve occasionally spotted lone wild turkeys in parking lots on Mayfair Road that back up to some railroad tracks that cross paths with one of the parkways.
But only in the last few years has this flock of turkeys appeared to settle in and put down some roots. The number of birds at any given time varies from two to seven, depending I suppose on what attractions may have pulled members away temporarily. But they do seem to be a cohesive group that slowly works its way around different neighborhoods in the area.
The turkeys roam through people’s yards and cross streets with impunity. A group of seven held up rush-hour traffic at a busy intersection about two months ago, taking their sweet time almost as though they knew (and were reveling in!) the mayhem they were causing. Everyone was incredibly patient, though. No horns honking or motorists trying to squeeze around somehow. Even people far down the hill, who probably had no idea what was going on to hold up traffic, refrained from angrily honking their horns. Then again, maybe they knew what was up because it wasn’t the first time they’ve been stopped by a turkey crossing on the drive home from work.
My daughter looked out our kitchen window one morning this spring to see a single turkey strolling through our side yard. We live in a hilly, terraced neighborhood, and our yard is fenced. As my daughter watched, the turkey tired of our yard and flew up and over our fence into our neighbor’s yard. So even though I have never seen these birds fly, they clearly can when they feel like it. I was grateful our dog wasn’t outside at the time. Turkeys have some wicked-looking claws, and although I hope this one would have chosen “flight” over “fight,” I guess you never know what a wild animal is going to do.
Yet as far as I know, the turkeys have managed to coexist peacefully with everyone else. No injuries or property damage that I’ve heard of. People in my neighborhood seem bemused by and even fond of the turkeys. If you do an internet search for “Tosa Turkeys” you’ll find plenty of social-media photos and even some official news articles and video coverage.
At first it was just so amazing to encounter wild turkeys where you didn’t expect something like that to be. And now the feeling seems to be amused acceptance of . . . and possibly even respect for . . . the way these critters have so matter-of-factly established themselves as residents.