wild turkeys toronto

Wild turkeys are roaming Toronto and here's where you can see them

The raccoon may be Toronto's unofficial mascot — heck, one could argue you're not a true Toronto resident if you haven't had an encounter with one — but there's a rather unexpected animal that has been giving our iconic ring-tailed mammal a run for its money lately: the wild turkey.

Yes, turkey sightings have been surprisingly frequent around the 6ix in recent years, with the large feathery friends filmed traipsing around subway stations, attacking office workers, taunting policegetting comfortable in local parks and even appearing to wait for the bus, apparently unaware that pigeons have the critter monopoly on TTC ridership.

And though our resident turkey population obviously pales in comparison to our very established communities of trash pandas, pigeons and other urban fauna, the species is indeed on the City of Toronto's official checklist for birds native to the area, though they are listed as "uncommon" compared to hundreds of other breeds.

Not to be confused with the more widespread turkey vulture, the animal was actually reintroduced to Ontario in the 1980s after hunting and habitat loss led to their eradication in the decades prior, with 4,400 Eastern turkey hatchlings from south of the border and elsewhere in Canada brought in by the provincial government from 1984-1987.

Canadian Geographic estimates that 100,000 or so of the birds now call Ontario home, and Toronto specifically does have the type of environment that they prefer, as the city notes in a recent tweet.

Despite turkey sightings as of late taking place in busy, open places near roadways, they are, of course, more drawn to wooded areas and fields with food sources and places to nest.

The city says they prefer mature forests with nut trees like oak — as they forage on seeds, insects, small amphibeans, nuts and fruits —interspersed with forest edges, fields and meadows.

Turkeys nest in brush piles and shrubbery at ground level, and like most animals, they can get aggressive during the spring in particular (and even at other times of year, as we know), so are best left alone if you do come across one.

Despite the fact that they should like a more natural environment, the creatures do keep popping up around the downtown core, with one even spotted at City Hall last month.

So even if you're not in a green space, you may indeed run into one — Toronto appears to be just one of many major North American cities where turkeys roam freely, unbothered and at times terrorizing their human neighbours.

And if you somehow find yourself with a wild turkey hanging around your property, the province recommends scaring them off with loud noises, or shooing them away with a hose or broom from a safe distance.

People do still hunt them, though in Ontario you must have an outdoors card, small game licence, a wild turkey tag for the correct season, and must follow a list of other rules to do so.

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