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I wanted to comment on the
letter answered in the October issue from Enness Arnold of
Circle I Farms, Wilcox, Arizona.
His problem was rabbits eating his crops; mine is turkeys.
We have parallel stories.
Last winter the turkeys grubbed out my crimson clover cover
crop—the clover was knee-high in the garden where the
turkeys won’t go; in the field where we planted it,
we had better than 95 percent loss. The turkeys scratched
through the snow.
A rafter of about 62 turkeys—the neighbor counted—
occupies my farm which borders government land. Turkeys are
not native to California, and the Department of Fish &
Game released them to sell hunting licenses and raise revenue
for the state. The population of these invasive pests is out
of control. They are feral [ed. – having returned to
an untamed state], not wild. Every now and then a young turkey
is born streaked with white feathers.
The turkeys won’t scatter if I approach them with the
car. They enter the house if I leave the door ajar.
Last year, I called Fish & Game and inquired what I could
do about these pests that ate my cover crop. Fish & Game
shrugged, telling me that the department would issue a free
depredation permit and I could shoot them. I told them I don’t
own a gun, didn’t have time to sit and shoot turkeys,
and wanted a better plan. Fish & Game offered the depredation
permit and that was all.
My bill for cover crop seed from Peaceful Valley [Farm &
Garden Supply] was $692. I’ve got crimson clover again,
also fava beans, suggested by another farmer who thought turkeys
would not bother fava beans and a mix of other species to
try and find one species that the turkeys don’t like.
I persuaded a retired neighbor to sit and shoot once when
the seeds sprout. This seemed like a plan.
This year, Fish & Game refused the permit – evidently
a change of policy. The biologist who issues these permits
lives in Sacramento and left a message on my answering machine:
“My dog chases turkeys, I’ll lend you my dog.”
These are long-distance calls and I’ve made about 12
of them, getting replies like “scare crow” and
“I’m on vacation” with no “will call
I’ll mention two other things here. First, ideally,
I’d like to throw out contraceptive bait, and reduce
the populations, maybe even making these critters wild again.
Fish & Game has no insight into biological science and
contraceptive control, such as that suggested for wild horses
on government land.
Second, I have a background in chemistry and toxicology and
I could poison these pests without detection, if I wanted,
but I hesitate endangering the kit fox that eats the turkeys’
carcasses. We have the Mokelumne Hill kit fox in our area.
So I have made the effort to cooperate with state regulators
at Fish & Game, and I get rebuffed.
My time is at a premium. I don’t have time to synchronize
with a prodigal government-time agency. Is there a way to
make government work as it’s supposed to?
Part of the policy strain comes from the governor’s
pledge to make state agencies pay for themselves. Fish &
Game wants revenue, and the department is willing to sacrifice
game management to make the buck. To be legal, must I resign
myself to feeding the state’s turkeys with $692 of cover
San Andreas CA