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Lawmakers talk turkey at Utah's Capitol Hill

Published: Thursday, Feb. 28 2013 3:38 p.m. MST

Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, is sponsoring a bill to address the problem of wild turkeys running amok in rural residential neighborhoods.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Wild turkeys running amok in the rural residential neighborhoods of Utah are prompting a Utah legislator to propose ways to corral the problem, including the establishment of a second hunt or allowing the property owner to capture, kill or drive the turkeys away.

Greg Sheehan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said the agency is aware that the flourishing numbers of the wild turkey population in Utah have led to conflicts with property owners.

"Sometimes we are the victim of our success" in the agency, Sheehan told members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee during a Thursday hearing on HB342.

Sponsored by Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, the bill proposes a second hunt, or the division to conduct a depredation hunt, as well as setting up a provision for property owners to seek mitigation for damages they have suffered.

The wild turkeys live high in the mountains where they brood and feed until the snow drives them down to lower elevations — and into neighborhoods and onto farms.

Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said it was unusual to see them in Ogden Valley eight to 10 years ago, before they were successfully transplanted by the agency.

Now, he said it is fairly routine for him to have 150 to 200 of the wild game birds strutting across his front lawn or elsewhere in town.

The droppings left behind cause damage to cars, lawns and other property, Froerer said.

Box Elder farmer Kyle Potter said he and others in the agricultural community see a benefit to having the wild turkeys on the ground through pest control — they eat a lot of grasshoppers.

The turkey talk prompted some lawmakers to take a playful gander at the issue, with Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, wondering aloud if anyone in the room had ever had any experience "driving" away a turkey.

"You talk about feral cats. I want to know if anyone has any experience in that area. It ain't gonna happen," Noel said.

While there is no intent to offer chauffeur services to "drive" the animals away, Menlove and Sheehan said there are effective ways of wrangling the wild turkeys so they leave.

There were some attempts by members of the committee to defer the issue for study, but Menlove said she wanted her wild turkey bill to get a full airing this session.

"I prefer we pass it out to keep the heat on," she said.

The measure advanced out of committee on an 11-2 vote.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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