Minneapolis.– They are resting next to the bike racks and the outside bedrooms. They’re strutting around the Harvard yard. And yes, they occasionally fan and attack innocent students.
Across the country, from the riverbanks of the University of Minnesota to the forests of the University of California at Santa Cruz, wild turkeys have gone to college. And they seem to like it. Maybe too much.
Once rare in most of the United States, turkeys became one of the great conservation success stories of the last half century. But as efforts to expand the range of birds that flourished in the countryside, turkeys also trotted into cities, putting up perches in alleys, parks, backyards and, increasingly, in institutions of higher education.
“College campuses are just an ideal habitat,” said David Drake, a professor and wildlife extension specialist at the University of Wisconsin, where a sizeable group like to hang out near graduate student apartments. “You have that mix of wooded parcels with open green areas and things like that. Nobody is hunting ”.
It’s a good life for a big bird. In Minnesota, turkeys chewed on small berries near the student union this month and paced the sidewalk, unfazed as students passed them. Tom Ritzer, the university’s deputy director of land care, said a flock of turkeys would sometimes break a seedbed and cause damage. But other times, excessive turkey foraging alerts gardeners to a larval infestation.
“It’s kind of a blessing and a curse,” said Ritzer, a 22-year college veteran who said a large number of turkeys started showing up in recent years. “I guess they are probably better than coyotes,” he added.
At many universities, turkeys have become minor celebrities. Instagram accounts that celebrate birds have a loyal following in Wisconsin, where they have been photographed on playgrounds and in parking lots, and in Minnesota, where a bird was caught looking plaintively out of a restaurant window near campus.