MORGAN -- With snow pretty much on the way out, it's the beginning of the end of the complaints about wild turkeys, says a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources wildlife specialist.
Wild turkeys leave the mountains and come to the valley farms and subdivisions at the first snowfall, said Arlo Wing, Division of Wildlife Resources wildlife specialist. When the weather warms up and the days get longer, the flocks break up, and the birds head for the hills.
This winter featured more complaints than usual, most of which came from Cache County south of Logan in the Nibley, Avon, Paradise and Mendon communities, Wing said. A few complaints came from Box Elder County, as well as some from Morgan County in the Croydon and Peterson communities, he said.
The complaints were about anywhere from one to 300 turkeys, Wing said. The DWR trapped and relocated 380 birds this winter, compared to 50 last year, he said. The last trap for nuisance turkeys was picked up two weeks ago in Cache Valley.
Many farmers love the wild turkeys. The Croydon farmer did not want most of the birds removed, but needed to lose a few because they were getting into his livestock feed, Wing said
"Farmers spend a lot less on insecticides when they have the turkey roaming through their fields," Wing said. "One farmer in Collinston (in Box Elder County) worked it out and said he spent two-thirds less on insecticides. They do recognize turkeys will cause a little bit of damage to the crops, but (the turkeys) do more good than harm. They eat a lot of grasshoppers and other insects detrimental to crops."
The increasing amount of daylight has already prompted some gobblers to strut and make a gargling, gobble noise for the hens. Hens will usually come running for the privilege of a gobbler's company, but if those hens are busy hunting bugs, the frustrated males will go find them.
Northern Utah turkeys are mostly the Rio Grande subspecies, members of which are long-legged birds stretching up to 3 feet tall. Despite the Thanksgiving decorations, gobblers only strut and fan those black-striped tail feathers as a rite of spring.
"A lot of people really enjoy the birds," Wing said. "Trouble happens when a few show up and people put out a handful of food -- then more and more come."
There were enough turkey nuisance complaints this year for the Utah Legislature to pass a bill requiring the wildlife division to investigate complaints within 72 hours.
Rep. Ronda Rudd Menlove, R-Garland, sponsored HB 342, which also required the division to "mitigate the material damage" caused by the birds. The bill does not define "mitigate."
"The wildlife board is going to have to figure out what is material damage," Wing said. "Is it scat on the driveway? Scratches on the lawn?"
Most wild turkey complaints are because of the mess the birds can leave behind, Wing said. "If people have scat on the driveway, sidewalk, track it into their home ... it can get messy," he said.
HR 342 also asks the Utah Wildlife Board to consider a fall hunting season for the birds. The general spring hunting season for turkey this year is April 29 to May 31.
The nuisance complaints are a reminder that wild turkeys are a tremendous conservation success story. By the end of the 1900s, wild turkeys barely survived unregulated hunting and habitat loss.
"Twenty years ago, there were just a few turkeys here and there," said Phil Douglass, DWR spokesman. "Now in some places, they've done too well. They look for an easy meal, come down and make a mess."