Three 'aggressive' turkeys in Wauwatosa have been captured and killed

Evan Casey
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tosa turkeys block traffic at the intersection of N. 70th street and W. State street in Wauwatosa on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 during the evening rush hour. The turkeys are a regular sight in the downtown area of the city and are often seen during the evening hours making it a challenge for motorists getting off from work.

Three turkeys that have been acting aggressively in Wauwatosa were captured and killed this week. 

The news comes after five turkeys have been seen roaming the streets and parking lots together near West State Street in recent months.

Turkeys have been a common sight in parts of the city for some time now as they've been seen crossing busy streets and intersections, showing up on the front steps of homes and even prancing around the Hart Park auditorium. 

But some have been getting more aggressive recently, according to city staff. 

Laura Stephens, Wauwatosa's health officer, said Wisconsin Wildlife Services wasn't able to relocate the turkeys in the city. After they were captured, the birds were provided to a processor and given to local food pantries. 

"Removal of an animal is a last resort and only done in extreme circumstances," Stephens said. "In this case, the Health Department, other city departments, the DNR, Wildlife Services and local businesses had received dozens of calls with concerns about these turkeys and aggressive behavior."

Dan Hirchert, the state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture APHIS Wildlife Services, said the situation was made worse by people feeding the turkeys. 

"Citizens with good intentions often think they are helping them get through winter, but turkeys will associate the handouts with humans and then eventually approach unsuspecting passers-by,"  Hirchert said. 

Hirchert said the agency received a permit to remove the turkeys from the city. 

"The permit said the birds could be relocated within the city or taken to a processor. The city did not have an adequate location within those parameters to release these birds without possibly creating another conflict for residents," he said.

Hirchert said turkeys can get bold as well, as the birds can weigh more than 20 pounds, with sharp spurs.

"People can and have hurt themselves trying to get away from aggressive turkeys and Canada geese too," Hirchert said.

Four turkeys are seen in the parking lot of  Outpost Natural Foods in Wauwatosa in January 2022.

Stephens said the city has received one incident report from Outpost about a confirmed attack on a person. Outpost recently put a sign up to deter shoppers from feeding the turkeys.

"However, there were many residents and employees who still felt unsafe around these turkeys. When there are safety concerns, we need to address the issue by removing the animal(s)," Stephens wrote in an email. 

Stephens said the hope is for the other two turkeys to continue to "coexist peacefully" in Wauwatosa. But they'll continue to monitor them.

It's important for people to not feed turkeys or other wildlife as well. 

"We understand that many people in our community enjoy the local wildlife," Stephens said. "However, intentional feeding of turkeys can cause the turkeys to lose fear of humans and can result in habitation at close distances to humans where the risks of a negative interaction are highly likely."

Turkeys are seen roaming the streets of Wauwatosa in 2020.

Here's why it's important not to feed wildlife human food, according to the U.S. Department of Natural Resources:

  • "Human food can lead to diseases in wildlife. Most human food does not meet nutritional needs of wildlife and can cause serious health problems.
  • Animals have specialized diets. Because human food is nutrient deficient for wildlife, animals may become malnourished or die when fed human food. 
  • Human food can cause damage to animals. Animals do not distinguish packaging from food, and the packaging may be consumed resulting in abrasions, sickness and even death."

The move to remove the turkeys comes days after a trapper in the city killed five coyotes following a coyote attack in December that killed a local couple's dog. 

Evan Casey can be reached at 414-403-4391 or Follow him on Twitter @ecaseymedia