Minneapolis — They are relaxing next to bike racks and outside dorms. They are pretending to cross the Harvard Yard. And yes, they sometimes instigate their wings and assault innocent students.
From the banks of the University of Minnesota to the forests of the University of California, Santa Cruz, wild turkeys go to college all over the country. And they seem to like it. Probably too much.
Once rare in most of the United States, turkey has become one of the great nature maintenance success stories of the last half century. However, as efforts to expand bird habitat flourished throughout the countryside, turkeys also set foot in cities, roosting in alleys, parks, backyards, and increasingly higher education institutions.
“The university campus is an ideal habitat,” said David Drake, a professor and extension wildlife specialist at the University of Wisconsin. There, quite a few flock like to hang out near the apartment for graduate students. “A mixture of forested patches and open grass areas. No one is hunting.”
It’s a good life for big birds. In Minnesota this month, turkeys devoured small berries near the Students’ Union and took a walk on the sidewalk. Tom Ritzer, assistant director of land care at the university, said a flock of turkeys, also known as rafters, sometimes tore the plant floor and caused damage. However, at other times, excessive turkey foraging warns the groundkeeper of the spread of larvae.
“It’s a kind of blessing and curse,” said Ritza, a 22-year college veteran who said many turkeys have begun to appear in the last few years. “I think it’s probably better than a coyote,” he added.
At many universities, turkeys have become minor celebrities. The Bird Celebration Instagram account has loyal supporters in Minnesota, where a bird is secretly peeking through the window of the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, shot in a playground or parking lot, and the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, just off campus. I’m waiting.
“It’s like a pet on our campus,” said Amanda Ichelle, who runs the @turkeysofumn Instagram page with her classmate Page Robinson. Most of the photos they post were submitted by fellow students, but only the best ones make the cuts.
“There are dozens of direct messages for photos and videos I haven’t posted yet,” he said, fascinated when he grew up on Long Island and only saw turkeys at the zoo and seemed to be turning around. Robinson, a sophomore who said he was done, said. It’s everywhere in Minneapolis.
Coexistence with college poultry is not always easy. At California Polytechnic State University, campus police stations are sometimes referred to as turkeys chasing people. At the University of Michigan, a state wildlife officer killed a famous turkey two years ago, allegedly harassing bikers and jogging. And in Wisconsin, Dr. Drake said at least a few aggressive Toms were culled after repeatedly scaring students.
Even turkey fans are scared to be chased.
Audrey Evans, a PhD student in Wisconsin who runs @turkeys_of_uw_madison on Instagram, said: “But your instinct to fight or escape begins.”
Whether turkeys prefer campus life to other urban environments is a matter of debate.
Richard Pollack, who keeps an eye on birds at Harvard University, said turkeys are known to regularly block traffic and peck car hubcaps on the streets around the campus. He once said that the turkey entered the university building through an open door before it returned to its original state.
However, turkeys appear to be ubiquitous in Harvard’s hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Dr. Pollack said the birds may be even more ubiquitous off campus.
“I don’t know if turkeys are necessarily more abundant or visit campuses more often than in other areas,” said Dr. Pollack, senior environmental and public health officer at the university. However, due to the vast area and heavy traffic, “people tend to see them” on campus, he said.
They are certainly looking at them. In Sacramento, a student newspaper opinion writer once wrote a column to encourage the acceptance of birds. At Fairfield University, Connecticut, Dormant Twitter account Birds are a point of pride when recording campus rafters. Lane Community College in Oregon also has an official campus policy for turkeys. In other words, “don’t feed intentionally or unintentionally.”
There are few formal studies on university turkeys, but there is widespread agreement on each campus that their numbers have exploded over the last decade or so.
Alex Jones, who manages the campus nature reserve in Santa Cruz, California, said he had never seen a turkey as a student in the 1990s. Now it’s everywhere, sometimes in groups of dozens. Outside the canteen, on the sequoia tree branches, and often on the streets that block traffic.
“The most interesting thing for me is that they sometimes go through pedestrian crossings,” Jones said.
Mr Jones said it makes sense for turkeys to relax. The Santa Crus Campus has vast forest areas and grasslands, adjacent to state forests. The lack of a hunter will probably help as well.
At Harvard University, Dr. Pollack also said he understood why birds were returning, even though building managers were known to complain about the sheer volume of dung they left behind. I did.
“If I were a turkey, I would think the courtyard and the vast Harvard Yard itself would be a really great place,” Dr. Pollack said. “A lot of food. There is a lot to see.”