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Emily Welker, Published January 23 2013

North Fargo residents cry fowl over turkey infestation (with video)

FARGO - Fargo police are looking to catch a gigantic gang of fugitives making life in a northside neighborhood a foul – or is that fowl? – experience.

A group of wild turkeys that may be as many as 80 birds strong – a rafter, as a group of turkeys is known – has infested the area a few blocks south of Edgewood Golf Course in the northeast corner of the city, near Peterson Parkway and Birdie Street.

Yes, Birdie Street.

Whether they’re attracted to the street’s name, or more likely to the nearby river and one of the city’s biggest stretches of green space, the birds and their byproducts have worn out their welcome.

“We called, our neighbors called,” said Galen Heinle, who’s lived on Peterson Parkway for six years and said this is the worst the birds and their droppings have ever been.

At one point, he said, the poop problem became so bad in his yard his wife had to hire someone to come in and clean it up.

“It was getting to be unsanitary. I’m glad the city’s doing something,” Heinle said.

And, he said, while the birds haven’t shown any overt aggression, they’re obviously a little too comfortable where they are.

“When I leave, they won’t get out of the way of the car. It’s like, come on, let’s go,” he said.

Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said the police, with the help of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, are starting a baiting and trapping process to attempt to net the birds and move them out to a more rural area.

They’ll be feeding the birds on the nearby Cardinal Muench seminary property, and they’re asking people in the neighborhood to stop feeding the birds in the meantime.

The department sent letters to residents in the area last week, informing them of their plans to deal with the turkey takeover.

Police also ask that potential onlookers remain respectful of private property and the wildlife while the trapping is going on, though Vettel admits the birds haven’t been quite so mannerly.

In addition to leaving their waste all over people’s property, he said they are capable of property damage like knocking down and destroying yard items.

“These are wild animals, and when they get into an urban environment, there are adaptations that are not good for the homeowner, and not good for the turkey,” he said.

Police said the trapping process, which should take about four weeks, probably won’t eradicate the area’s entire turkey population.

They said the focus is not to move all the birds out of the city, just to bring the bird population down to a more manageable level for an urban environment.

Police said they recently trapped and relocated a much smaller flock in north Fargo near Hector International Airport using a similar technique.

Doug Leier, a biologist with North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department, said there has been an urban turkey population in Fargo since he got to the city in 1997. And, he said, with few natural predators, the population continued to grow.

Despite the mess left by the roving rafter of gobblers, Heinle doesn’t want to quit them cold turkey. He is hoping the city won’t trap all the birds.

On a moonlit night, he said, he can see a group of about 50 or so roosting in the trees in his yard, all night long, in degrees of minus 20 or more. He agrees that these are tough turkeys. And he’s developed a certain fondness for the feathered fugitives.

“I feel sorry for them, in a way,” Heinle said. “You think you’re having a tough day? You don’t want to be a turkey.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541

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