Oh, deer! Time to talk turkey about urban wildlife


EUGENE, Ore. - Ginny Cramer worries that the wild turkeys that cross busy West Eugene intersections every day pose a real safety hazard.

"Not only are they going to get killed, but I worry about the major accident," Cramer told KVAL News. "That's what i worry about. We slow down to a point, but we don't know which ways these turkeys are going to go."

Reports of turkey sightings are no longer confined to the fringes of Eugene.

From downtown to the Churchill area and east into Springfield, gangs of turkeys flock together in yards, in streets and empty lots - basically, wherever they please.

"I understand that there's a big, huge population of turkeys in Eugene," Cramer said, "but why can we not do anything about it?"

KVAL News took tat concern to the offices of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Springfield - and a block from downtown Springfield, a news crew found a dead fawn on the side of the road.

"It's always sad to see animals struck by vehicles, especially if it causes suffering to the animal," said Brian Wolfer, biologist with ODFW.

Wolfer said wild animals are part of what makes the forested areas around town desireable for homeowners.

And while breathtaking in their natural environment, on the roads, these animals can take your breath away, too: Deer like to cross the roads at dusk and in the dark.

That's a danger for motorists who "overreact and cause a secondary accident trying to avoid the animal, and those can be quite dangerous, too," Wolfer said.

The risk comes with the real estate in Eugene and Springfield.

"We've been able to do some of our development and housing in and amongst the natural setting, so, when you do that, preserve those natural habitats, you're going to have wildlife that lives there," he said.

Wolfer said it's not so much that urban sprawl has pushed people into the wildlife's habitat. Instead, deer and turkey prefer the company of city folk to, say, coyotes.

"You don't have the same level of predation that you would have in a rural setting," he explained. "You don't have the hunting seasons. You don't have some of the other mortality factors influencing the animals."

And people in town are literally feeding the problem, Wolfer said.

"When people feed the animals, it allows for a higher density than the habitat there should support," he said.

But without a law against feeding wildlife in either Eugene or Springfield, the practice is hard to stop. ODFW hands out documents to homeowners that encourage them not to feed the wildlife.

Concerns include overpopulation and the spread of disease.

Safety for people and pets factors in, too.

"My wife's dog got smacked by a doe," Wolfer said. "When you have a dow with a young fawn, and a dog comes up and approaches them, she's looking at it as a potential predator and she might get aggressive and attack it."

Wolfer said common sense is the best approach.

"Don't feed the wildlife, watch out for them when you're driving, but leave them alone," he said. "They will be there. And you will get to see them, and you won't contribute to some of those nuissance problems and overpopulations if you're not feeding them."