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MailTribune.com
  • Wild turkeys tempt fate

    Flock of birds — minus the pop-up thermometers — roams around east Medford unplucked
  • Residents of an east Medford neighborhood might find today's Thanksgiving turkeys on their table and perhaps even their front lawns.
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  • Residents of an east Medford neighborhood might find today's Thanksgiving turkeys on their table and perhaps even their front lawns.
    A small flock of wild turkeys once again has taken up residence near the intersection of Willamette and Main streets and will spend Thanksgiving shaking their legs instead of having them roasted, proving there's always room on your plate for irony.
    "You don't normally see things like that in town, right off Main Street," says Gary Yeoman, a Willamette Street resident who snapped a photo of eight of the neighborhood denizens on Sunday. "They're definitely wild turkeys, and they're definitely a riot."
    Almost annually, some small flock of Rio Grandes ends up in or around downtown Medford during the spring or fall, when city life seems to beat country living — and not so coincidentally during spring and fall turkey-hunting seasons.
    Birds have been in the Willamette Street/Ashland Avenue area on and off for decades, while small flocks have strutted their stuff down Central Avenue. Once, in 2005, a small flock spent an afternoon amid the landscaping of the Mail Tribune's downtown office building.
    Usually, the gobblers crop up in established neighborhoods with large roosting trees and a dearth of predators, says Dan Ethridge, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in White City.
    "Birds are always looking for a place where they feel safe, and if they feel safe in that area they might stay," Ethridge says.
    Almost always, someone in the neighborhood is feeding them, Ethridge says. Having a flock around can be a novelty for a while but occasionally a nuisance when a few birds invite a few hundred of their friends to the neighbors' feeder.
    The ODFW occasionally fields complaints from city dwellers wanting to get rid of the turkeys, which cannot be shot legally within city limits.
    Yeoman, a retired industrial runoff monitor for the city of Medford, says he first noticed a roosting male and female last year, and then a few hens this year. During regular walks with Sultan, his 75-pound standard poodle, Yeoman would find the birds walking the alleys and resting in yards or vacant lots.
    Then eight materialized on his lawn Sunday.
    "I thought, Holy Moley. They brought friends," Yeoman says.
    They strutted about as if they owned the place, much to his delight as well as that of rubbernecking drivers on the somewhat busy street.
    "They actually stopped traffic when they walked across the street," he says. "People got a kick out of watching turkeys cross the road."
    No one really knows what's happening in those bird brains, but one thing is clear: They'll stick around town for two more holidays if they know what's good for them.
    The fall turkey season ends Dec. 31.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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