Wild turkeys are heading to the city

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GRAND RAPIDS -- Wild turkeys are becoming a more common sight in the city of Grand Rapids and surrounding suburbs. The DNR isn't exactly sure how many there are in the metro area, but they do know they are increasing in numbers.

"It's a sheer numbers game. When we get lot of turkeys in the country, you're going to get a few that move into the urban areas," says John Niewoonder, a DNR Wildlife Biologist. "They like it there. They get protection from a lot of things -- a lot of predators and things like that that they found out in the country."

There are currently just over 200,000 wild turkeys in the state of Michigan. Although statewide numbers have been steady or slightly declining in recent years, they are still thriving in Michigan. And the DNR allows a fall hunt to keep their numbers in check.

"In Michigan we have a spring and a fall season. The spring season is more for recreation, the fall season is designed to help us maintain populations at tolerable levels," says Niewoonder. "So we issue a lot of permits, and in the fall you can shoot hens which is really what you want to do if you want to reduce the population or slow down the growth."

If you see a turkey in your neighborhood, there is no need to panic. Wildlife biologists say they generally are not a threat to humans. The best way to treat them is to give them plenty of space, and avoid feeding them.

"So if turkeys are hitting your bird feeders or if you're putting feed out for turkeys, you're really not helping them. You're just causing them to become more comfortable around people. And when they become comfortable, that's when they become somewhat problematic," says Niewoonder.

Turkeys cannot be hunted in the city of Grand Rapids, and the DNR has no plans to reduce their population anytime soon.

"I don't think we need to go in there right now. It's very difficult to address. We can't go in there and remove them/shoot them or use some of the techniques that we can use in the country. So they're very difficult to trap and relocate. That doesn't work very well in urban areas," says Niewoonder.

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