This Invasive Species Could Be Harming California’s Vulnerable Environment and Wildlife

California has been invaded. The Golden State’s agricultural fields, water-sucking golf courses, homes, gardens and freeway entrances have all been taken over.

Invasive and (sometimes) aggressive wild turkeys are running amok in California. Just look at this hilarious footage of a TV producer running for life in Sacramento.

Clearly, these birds don’t mind invading our personal space. But they are also an invasive species who could be threatening California’s vulnerable ecosystems.

How Did the Wild Turkeys Take Over California?

These cocky (ha!) conquistadors were brought into California by the California Fish and Game Commission in two waves for money and “fun.” Hunters would pay the hunting fees to hunt the wild birds and derive some pleasure and satisfaction from hunting them (which I will never understand). The birds in the first wave, who arrived between the 1900s and the 1950s, didn’t do too well because they “lacked the skills to survive in the wild,” explains Dawn Star in in Scientific American. It’s a totally different story for the turkeys in the second wave, who arrived in the second half of the 20th century.

During the second wave, the Commission imported and then released thousands of live-trapped wild turkeys from a tough Texas subspecies at over 200 California locations. And these birds had no problem adapting. In 2013, there was an estimated 250,000 wild turkeys in the state, and that trend was increasing. Today, their descendants roam wild and free over 29,000 square miles of the state. Anywhere from 18 percent to one quarter of California is for the birds.

How Wild Turkeys Could Be Harming California’s Flora and Fauna

It’s clear that the wild turkeys are here to stay. And that could be a problem for native plants and animals. No, the big, bad birds aren’t attacking wildlife like they attack TV producers, but there are still legitimate threats. According to Scientific American, in 2007, the California State Department of Parks and Recreation described three possible threats wild turkeys posed to California’s environment and wildlife:

1. The birds consume endangered reptiles and amphibians, collectively know as “herps,” who are stressed enough as it is because of habitat loss, disease, exposure to contaminants, the illegal trade and UV radiation exposure.

2. They compete with native, ground-dwelling bird species for limited resources.

3. During California’s tree state of emergency (where there are 22 million dead California trees, 58 million water depleted trees and 888 million drought stressed trees), wild turkeys could spread the tree disease known as sudden oak death.

A bonus threat that some conservationists have noted is the soil disturbance created by the turkeys.

Unfortunately, none of these threats have been thoroughly vetted by the scientific community — and that’s a problem. Between 1959 and 1999 when the turkeys were introduced, California wasn’t plagued by the drought, climate change and massive die-offs like it is today. Pinnacles National Park’s Invasive Wildlife Biologist Daniel Ryan breaks down what needs to get done and the current limitations in Scientific American: “we need far more good scientific research on this species and the effects it has had since being dropped into the state. We need concrete answers and we don’t have the time or money to find out.”

Take Action!

California wildlife officials introduced these invasive wild turkeys into California to be hunted. Sign and share this petition if you agree that it’s now their responsibility to take the time and find the money to study the long-term environmental impacts of their long-term presence in the state.

Photo Credit: Steve Voght

92 comments

Angela K.
Angela Kabout a year ago

petition signed & shared

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Marie W.
Marie W1 years ago

Another example how so called agencies are nothing but hunting groups using public funds.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H1 years ago

I agree Bartley. Those ads and viewing the page can be obnoxious. Rolls the page up then down, continually losing my place. And heck, I still can't get the rumble videos to play...

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H1 years ago

Study the impact...what this is saying is promote the heavy hunting of the wild turkeys. I do have to admit wild turkeys are mean!

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Melania Padilla
Melania P1 years ago

And that is what happens when humans mess up with nature!!

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Randy F.
Past Member 1 years ago

Thanks!

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Randy F.
Past Member 1 years ago

Thanks!

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Brad H.
Brad H1 years ago

Thanks

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Alicia N.
Alicia N1 years ago

Common ! we (humans ) are the only ones destroying and invading

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