Roaming gobblers find a home in Eastlake

From car tops to intersections, traveling turkeys have no reason to leave

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At Lisa Anne’s Bakery in Thornton, John Walter regularly spies wild turkeys roaming around the area near the Eastlake and 124th Avenue transit station. 

“They just roam around here,” said John Walter, who has worked at the bakery for seven years. 

Walter said he sees a group of about 20 turkeys at least two times a week, but he usually works inside the store. Customers say they see them almost every day. 

Walter used to throw pecans for the birds, and they came at the same time looking for the nuts. Many smells out of the bakery may lead some turkeys to their doorstep. 

Wild turkeys are opportunistic foragers, meaning they feast on a wide variety of prey. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, about 85 percent of their food intake is vegetable matter and 15 percent animal matter.

The birds also have a unique system of communication. 

“Their vocabulary consists of 28 distinct calls. Each sound has a general meaning and can be used for different situations. Male turkeys are notorious for their iconic gobble which, unlike other calls, is given with a fixed intensity,” the NWTF website says. 

Nancy Peters, a resident of Thornton, mentioned how homes in the neighborhood near the Eastlake and 124th transit station will leave food on their front lawn for the turkeys to nibble on. She lives south of 120th Avenue and often sees the turkeys roaming from neighborhood to neighborhood. 

Generally, wild turkeys will walk about a mile or two within a day on their home range, which can vary between 370 and 1,360 acres. About 90 percent of their waking hours are feeding and are guided by their need for food and water, according to the NWFT. 

Peters, a 41-year-resident of Thornton, notes the populations of turkeys seemingly declined over the past 10 years. She blames development and the new RTD parking lot at the Eastlake and 124th transit station.

“They used to live on this field right here, and look at what RTD did,” Peters said, pointing at the transit station’s parking lot.

Then she points to the turkeys sitting in the tree on the corner of Second Street and 124th Avenue during dusk. 

“They use that house over there, the roof of it, and a couple of the trees there,” she said. “There’s no space for wildlife.”

Turkeys like cars

Not all sightings of wild turkeys have always been pleasant, Walter said. He recalled the time a customer complained of the birds standing on top of his car, scratching it with their feet. 

Jordan Likes, the hunter education coordinator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said that turkeys mounting cars is typical. They hop on to gain a better vantage point. Sometimes the cars park in their walking path and, specifically for black cars, the warm metal warms their bodies. 

The birds prefer to stay in the area they were born, which keeps many of the turkeys sauntering around the neighborhood. Thornton’s land can maintain turkeys, and there are not many reasons to leave. Resources, such as water and food, remain plentiful. The backyard ponds, and ornamental trees give them some snacks, and a lack of natural predators within Thornton help the flocks stick around.  

No danger exists to local residents or anyone else who might come face to face with a flock. Turkeys are territorial, and if they feel threatened, they will stand their ground by making themselves look bigger. 

However, no harmful incidents against humans have recently occurred. 

“In the 6 1/2 years I worked as a wildlife manager for the area, I never heard of anyone having issues with a turkey except scratching their cars,” said Likes, who was the district wildlife manager for the Thornton area from January 2015 until June.

Likes reminded residents that hunts for turkeys must occur within designated areas with a license and during the right season. Trapping turkeys also remains illegal.

Peters mentions how she loves having the turkeys in the neighborhood and all the other animals that make Thornton their home. 

“I just like wildlife,” she said.

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