Rio Grande Wild Turkeys

Asked July 2, 2015, 6:50 PM EDT

We have a flock of wild Rio Grande turkeys that have called our property their home since before we moved in 24 years ago. My wife and I have grown very fond of them, and they tolerate us rather well. Some are even friendly. I've been documenting the flock's dynamics and the individual interactions of all the birds for over 4 years and have well over 3,000 pages of detailed notes. Periodically, the turkeys fight each other. More often than not, the losers are permanently run off, usually with nothing more than minor wounds, but on occasion, the fighting results in one or more birds getting severe facial infections, leading them to be unable to eat and hardly drink. A number of birds have died from those infections. It's a horrible way to die and appears very painful and unpleasant for them. Their faces swell and develop sores that look like pus scabs. Eventually, the swelling gets so bad, their eyes swell shut. Before their eyes completely close, they have a lot of trouble seeing their food, even water - we leave out fresh water trays for all the local wildlife - and they starve and die of dehydration, on top of the massive infection. Is there any proper antibiotic we can readily/legally obtain and offer these poor injured birds so they don't have to go through such a drawn out, agonizing death? If so, what is it, and where can we purchase some? Or, should we just mind our own business and let them die - I ask because I've seen a number of organizations that rehabilitate wildlife . . . and we feel these little wild lives, our friends, deserve the same opportunity. Thanks, Phil PS: Attached is a picture of a tom, about a week after he fought a losing battle with the flock's dominant tom. We had some penicillin left over from an infection our cat had. I sequestered the tom for about two weeks and gave him our cat's leftover antibiotics. The second picture shows the same tom after we treated him. We eventually ran out of the antibiotic, but we don't seem to run out of severely injured turkeys - we get at least one or two a year that wind up as bad as this tom . . . eventually they find a place to hide, then die.

Douglas County Oregon wildlife turkeys

1 Response

Phil thank you for your interest in the turkey population near your home - Your dedication and datagathering is laudable! It can be very hard to see nature at work sometimes. Although the turkeys were introduced to Oregon, these animals are being managed as a wild population in our state, so we have to be careful not to interfere with them in ways that could have overall negative consequences. I am sure that your feeding, watering, and medicating are driven by a sense of caring, but creating areas of high-density congregations of animals runs risks of increasing conflicts and disease spread among animals. Allowing the turkeys to find their own food and water as it occurs dispersed over the wider area will likely keep conflicts to a minimum. If you think there's evidence of an outbreak of a communicable disease, you can reach out to Julia Burco, wildlife veterinarian with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Otherwise, the best course is to allow the animals to live (and sometimes die) in a wild state. I would urge you to not use medications on the wild animals - They're part of a natural system, and the last thing we want is to start a pattern of antibiotic-resistance in disease organisms --We can all appreciate the problems that antibiotic resistance causes in health management for humans, livestock, and pets. I hope this information is helpful.
Dana