Friday, August 7, 2015

Of Gophers and Turkeys

Hen on the Lookout
Turkeys Passing Through
Not a Peep
Curious Sign Among the Potatoes
Flattened Gopher Mound
Turkey Feathers Remain
Missing Onions in a Row
Not Turkeys
Shhh...I'm hunting for turkeys...

Actually my toes are too cold to water so early this morning. In the meantime, I'm listening for the near-silent peeps of wild turkey hens and their fledglings.

Turkeys graze swiftly -- a grasshopper here, a clover head there; move along children, hustle ladies. Brown bodies move like melting chocolate through golden grass. Blue heads shovel low enough to be incognito until one periscopes above the grass line.

Yesterday nothing would break Grenny's focus. I whistled, offered kibble and scolded. He was snuffling among my potatoes and onions. I had to physically pull him from the patch. That is when I noticed the poop and feather. A turkey feather.

With the dogs inside, I thought about turkeys in my garden. Is this the reason my onions have diminished? Before coming to any wild turkey conclusions, I went outside to investigate.

Potato patch seemed fine. I'm definitely missing onions, but no sign that turkeys pulled them. Poop. Another feather. More poop. But wait...

The gopher mounds look odd. Flattened. I walk behind the house where the worst of the mounds erupt. They are simply gone. Raked and hosting several turkey feathers.

Why would turkeys do this?

You might wonder why I don't kill the gophers. The most effective method is poison. If you poison gophers, then you poison everything that feeds on the rodents -- eagles, hawks, owls, foxes, badgers and coyotes. It could flush into Elmira Pond and seep into our water table.

Instead, I aim for balance. After all, I have a gopher-killing cat in residence, a dog that hunts gophers and a husband.

Todd's job is to hose emerging holes near my gardens. We stake the main kitchen garden with sonar and so far, it's remained gopher-free. I plant marigolds, and circle the potato patch with onions.

About those onions...hold that thought.

Naturally curious about the turkeys and the gopher holes, I went next to the Internet. I found a clue from a farmer who filmed her domestic turkeys taking dirt baths.

Bathing! The hens bathed in the gopher mounds. According to other wildlife articles I read, turkeys create baths in their territory that can be 14 inches in diameter and three to four inches deep. Those gopher mounds must have seemed like the wild turkey ideal of a Turkish bath. To see all those hens bathing in my yard!

And that is why I'm hunting turkeys with my camera this morning. So far, not a peep.

Back to the onions. In researching a connection between gophers and turkeys, I discovered that gophers favor tulips, potatoes and onions. Onions? They dislike anything aromatic like marigolds, spearmint or dog poop. I thought onions would drive them away, too.
Makes Me Ponder BBQed Goose...

Well, gophers, I hope you don't like turkey poop because they pooped all around the remaining onions.

That's natural balance for you!

Follow up: while hunting turkeys this morning, the Canada geese (Ma, Pa and two 'tweens) showed up to add further lawn fertilization. 

Bring on the nitrogen!


  1. I love your posts about the wildlife at Elmira Pond. The creatures are unlike those we have here. We don't have gophers. We do have bush turkeys. The males love to build nests of huge mounds of leaves. Not many people like them in their back yards. We don't have many here, but there are a few over at my son's house. Occasionally we see them strolling around the neighbourhood. They are very casual as they cross the road.
    I hope the turkey poop is a deterrent to the gophers. I very much admire your unwillingness to poison.Natural means are greatly preferred. :)

    1. Oh, my goodness, there exists bush turkeys? I didn't know that Australia had turkeys! You have so many colorful and exotic birds, yet I'm excited to learn about your bush turkeys! An interesting difference is that male bush turkeys mound nests, while that is the role of a female wild turkey in the US. They are big birds with thick bones, and I've read that paleontologists have found ancient turkey fossils in Mexico as old as 5 million years! I think one of the theories of dinosaurs is that they evolved into birds, and the hollowing of bone was a key adaptation for flight. Turkeys still have dense bones and are poor flyers.

      For good measure, I also placed a sonar stake in my potato patch! Early this morning, Todd got up before I did and he heard the turkeys rustling in the dry grass from his office. He came back upstairs, woke me up and I got to watch them scratch in my potatoes and poop some more!

      Best to keep it all natural. We poison one thing and start a chain reaction.