So many turkeys you can't count the flocks

Has anyone done a survey on how many groups of turkeys are in the valley now? I assume they were introduced, but when and what part of the area was the first group?

— Diane B., Medford

When it comes to wild turkeys in Oregon, the Rogue Valley is ground zero for what can be considered one of Oregon's most successful yet problematic species introductions in state history.

State wildlife biologists spent much of the mid-1900s trying to get various species of upland game birds to establish themselves in Southern Oregon, particularly the Rogue Valley, for hunting. Some losers of note were the Merriam's turkey, which never took hold, and the Hungarian partridge, whose releases created nothing but high-quality coyote food.

So when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in the spring of 1975 imported crates of Rio Grande turkeys from Texas and released the birds in the foothills east of Medford, it was the biological equivalent of throwing spaghetti at a wall to see whether it would stick.

And boy, howdy, did they. The Rio Grandes took well to the oak savannas of Jackson and, later, Josephine county. Along with Douglas County, the three areas served as seed for relocating new flocks elsewhere around the state, and for at least the past decade they have been found in all of Oregon's 36 counties.

They're so abundant that there is really no way to tell how many flocks are in Jackson County or even within Medford city limits, for that matter.

And not everyone thinks that's a good thing.

Sure, the spring and fall hunting seasons are very popular among shotgunners, but turkeys represent the number one wildlife nuisance complaint in the state, according to ODFW.

Turkeys are one of Oregon's most problematic wild critters in residential areas, with their sharp spurs hacking up gardens and rooftops, while their perpetual excrement sullies lawns and decks.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

Share This Story