Living with turkeys
It began in late November with a phone call to Ottawa police, someone reporting trouble in Barrhaven. A gang was roving the streets. A gang of wild turkeys.
Or, as police later clarified, a rafter of wild turkeys. Who knew that we in urban Ottawa would ever need to know the proper collective noun for these birds?
Calls kept coming in through December. Just before Christmas, police finally asked people to stop phoning. They had fielded 20 calls by this point, and knew there were turkeys. The question is, what were they supposed to do about it? Open fire? Clearly not. And any less lethal action just works temporarily, because the birds came back.
That’s not all. People call the police when they see a coyote, as well. One woman who sent the Citizen a photo of a coyote near her Alta Vista home described phoning City Hall to take action. The staffer there told her to call police, and eventually a cruiser showed up, drove around and found nothing.
Ottawa has been through waves of immigration, and now we’re seeing two new ones, turkeys and coyotes. These animals are not occasional arrivals such as the odd bear or moose, and they’re less hazardous than a bear or moose loose in the city.
The coyotes are native; the turkeys aren’t really. They are a hybrid from U.S. sources, imported in the 1980s and 1990s to please hunters because native wild turkeys — naturally shy birds of the deep forest — were wiped out. The point is, coyotes and wild turkeys are part of the urban landscape now, just as much as squirrels.
In the 1800s, someone would have trapped or shot them and the turkey-coyote controversy would have ended with cranberry sauce or a fur-lined hat. But today gunfire in the city is illegal. Everyone except the National Rifle Association can be glad of this.
The plain truth is that our city continues to change as it always has, and we have to adapt. That means treating coyotes and turkeys with care, as both are wild animals that we shouldn’t feed, but that’s all we need to do.
And while we’re at it, let’s stop panicking days in advance about each snowfall. We don’t have to play along when American TV stations scream about snowmageddons. Snow, like turkeys and coyotes, is natural here and we can handle it.