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'They're not scared of humans': City of Eugene takes aim at rats, wild 'gangster' turkeys

Paul Ely shared this photo of turkeys on Pearl Street in downtown Eugene via BURST.com/KVAL

EUGENE, Ore. - Bill Bezuk checks in on some of his best friends on the blustery last day of February.

"Chickens! Chickens," he calls. "Come on, chickens."

Urban farming is catching on with more people.

Bezuk, owner of the Eugene Backyard Farmer, offers only the best feed for his chickens.

"Oats, wheat, barley, maybe some maize in there," he said.

But a lot of that feed can wind up scattered around, or left out at night - setting up a smorgasboard for other animals you don't want around.

"So if you're keeping your chicken food out at night," Bezuk said, "you're just giving the rats an opportunity to come out and establish themselves in your backyard."

That's just on aspect of the City of Eugene's interest in controlling rats and other urban wildlife, like wild turkeys.

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"There's no single solution that we can really identify," said Denny Braud with the City of Eugene.

Talking turkey Wednesday, the City Council discusses next steps to send rats and turkeys packing.

Councilor Greg Evans said that where he works at Lane Community College, there are "gangster" turkeys (a group of turkeys is known as a "gang" or "rafter").

"There is turkey feces everywhere," Evans said, "and they're not scared of humans."

So the City is ramping up a public relations campaign to educate the public on how to rat-proof their yards, including new pamphlets - and a new rat-control website.

For turkey control, officials are tilting toward something stronger.

"My interest would be an ordinance that bans feeding wildlife, and then you can create exceptions to it," said Councilor Chris Pryor.

Those exceptions would include allowing domestic bird feeders.

"But if in the course of feeding the wildlife you're causing your neighbors property damage, then you're in violation of the ordinance," suggested Christopher Yee, a biologist from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Yee said communities like Philomath and Veneta have had success with such measures.

The Council directed City Manager Jon Ruiz to return in a few weeks with options for a rat and turkey control measure ordinance.

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