It’s not difficult to find the wild turkeys living in Jan Westfall’s backyard on 19th Street in northwest Great Bend.
Just follow the countless three-toed tracks in the snow.
However, these birds could be wild in name only. “They have adapted pretty well to being around people,” said Charlie Swank, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism district biologist based out of Cheyenne Bottoms.
With ample food in bird feeders or tossed by residents and few predators, these urban turkeys may have the right idea. They are also losing their fear of humans.
“It’s really not that odd. There are several communities with wild turkeys,” he said, including Macksville and Kinsley. “Any community with a turkey population nearby could wind up with them in the city limits.”
Sure, it is kind of cool seeing the birds strutting around town. None the less, they can become a nuisance, Swank said.
“If they hang around into the spring when mating season starts, the males can get kind of aggressive,” he said. Although not really dangerous, he’s seen them run at small children.
They can also perch on top of vehicles where they leave deposits and can scratch the paint. They can also roost in trees and make a lot of racket.
All in all, though, they are not really a big problem, he said.
Turkeys don’t migrate, but they do cover a large territory in a hurry. The birds eat anything from nuts to insects and don’t pose a threat to their new neighbors.
According to the KDWPT, wild turkeys are native to Kansas, wild turkeys were almost wiped out in the state by the early 1920s. This was due to over hunting and loss of habitat
But, they were reintroduced in the 1960s, and the program has been a great success. Today, the populations are stable in eastern part of the state and increasing in the west, although wildlife officials have no actual head count.
They range all over the state, as well as much of the United States. The type of sub-species varies from region to region.
Aiding in the recovery are restored and increased habitat, and improved conservation efforts.
There are several turkey hunting seasons throughout the year for either/or firearm and archery.