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Turkey sightings in Wilmette and Kenilworth causing a buzz

Turkey is a typical item during a visit to the food market. But not like this.

Alison Rodes, a marketing skilled with the Wilmette Park District, was about to get into her automotive Tuesday, March 26, following a visit to Jewel in Plaza del Lago when she was startled. A big wild turkey was strolling through the shopping mall’s car parking zone near Rodes’ automotive.

Rodes was surprised by the dimensions of the feathered friend. She called the encounter “fascinating” and was not the just one to catch a glimpse of the bird this week in the realm.

Multiple social media posts gained traction this week by sharing firsthand sightings of the turkey in Wilmette. A post on Nextdoor featured a video of the bird taking a walk through a lady’s yard, while one on Facebook captured the turkey on a residential walkway. Each post collected greater than 100 reactions.

A wild turkey (left to right) in Jim Lawson’s yard in Kenilworth, in Carol Korak’s yard in Wilmette, and off Sheridan Road in Wilmette.

However the turkey appears to be a traveler. Jim Lawson caught a photograph of him in his Kenilworth yard on Saturday, March 23.

The turkey photographed in Wilmette and Kenilworth is probably going an adult male, or a tom, given away by the bird’s red wattle and “beard” protruding from the breast. Males can stand 3 1/2 feet tall and weigh as much as 24 kilos.

Luke Garver is the Wild Turkey Project manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He said wild turkey populations are expanding in northern Illinois, including in suburban and concrete areas. Suburban life is quaint, even for a turkey, Garver said.

“After they get into suburban areas, they aren’t faced with plenty of predators or adversity and so they are sometimes well fed, which is one thing that has them hanging around,” he said. ” … Parks and golf courses often have bird mature trees for them to roost and large open areas (for males) to strut and display.”

Garver said two falls ago a report of a female turkey, or hen, near the lakeshore made some headlines. He said while the sightings are getting more regular, he “wouldn’t go thus far as to say they’re common.”

Turkeys in Illinois and the North Shore

Often living in wooded areas and swamps, the eastern wild turkey is a year-round resident in Illinois, in line with the IDNR website. However it wasn’t at all times that way.

Overhunting eliminated wild turkeys from Illinois around 1900, but a trap-and-relocation program reintroduced the wild birds to the state within the Nineteen Sixties, and so they at the moment are present in every county within the state.

Farm- or pen-raised turkeys are also present throughout Illinois, but Garver said the birds don’t typically survive long out of captivity. The truth is, the IDNR’s repopulation efforts within the ’50s began with pen-raised turkeys but none of them survived, Garver said.

The wild turkey population in Illinois has generally declined over the past 15 years but Garver said there have been signs of a resurgence prior to now two years, especially within the northern-most region of the state.

Turkey breeding season begins in late March and lasts until early April, in line with the IDNR. Garver said that might explain the weird activity of a male turkey, which frequently expands its territory while on the lookout for a mate. The presence of a male turkey is also an indicator of hens nearby, as males don’t typically travel greater than a number of miles, he said.

Garver said males, especially during mating season, can at times exhibit aggressive behavior toward people. He really helpful against feeding the birds.

“I suggest you only let it do its thing,” he said. “… After they lose fear of humans, they’ll seem pretty tame and docile, but … it’s nothing for them to take a look at an individual as a threat and so they can get pretty aggressive.

“Give them space, give them respect and my suggestion is don’t feed them, or wildlife, on the whole.”

As of Thursday, March 28, Wilmette police had only received one recent call a few wild turkey and it was not a report of any dangerous behavior.

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