November 24, 2010
Where did the wild turkeys go?

By Chris Macias

Norm Gold's cycled the American River Bike Trail regularly for the past 20 years, and always has a question when the holiday season rolls around. Where did all the wild turkeys go?

He usually notices the turkeys in flocks of six to 20, mingling among the squirrels, deer, quail and other animals that habitate near the American River. But once Thanksgiving approaches, it seems all that gobbling just goes away.

"My biking buddies and I joke that the turkeys have gone into hiding because people are looking for them," said Gold, an education consultant from east Sacramento. "But it's clear they're just not around. They show up after the holidays and I see them again maybe around February."

According to the California Department of Fish and Game, wild turkeys can be found in 18 percent of the state. Hunting them is allowed with a hunting license and upland game bird stamp, with a limit of one turkey during the fall hunting season.

However, folks rarely flock to the American River Bike Trail to illegally bag a Thanksgiving turkey. Wild tukey hunting is not permitted on the American River Parkway.

"We haven't had issues with that," said Ryan Pocan, a park ranger assistant with the Sacramento County Department of Regional Parks. "We notice them a lot on the American River Parkway and they stay in the same area pretty much all year round."

You'll also find plenty of wild turkeys throughout the year at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, located on the American River Parkway. So, the turkeys haven't been captured or completely ditched the bike trail. The turkeys just tend to scatter more this time of year to look for new food sources.

"What they're eating now is fresh green growth that's sprouting after the rain," said Brena Seck, a naturalist with the Effie Yeaw Nature Center. "There's so much of that green growth now that they just spread out. We see the turkeys every day. You can be reassured they don't dissapear. They're just eating somewhere else this time of the year, but they didn't go far."

That news makes Gold feel relieved for the turkeys.

"It is reassuring to know that they're not being poached and there's nothing nefarious going on," said Gold. "I guess the American River Parkway is a safe place to be a turkey."

Call The Bee's Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253.

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