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Sierra Daily

Nov 20, 2012

The Turkey Menace

Turkey deflectorCyclists in my part of the world are struggling with a new hazard these days: wild turkeys wandering into the roadway. The beautiful hills of the East Bay (i.e., San Francisco Bay) are overrun with them, as Daniel McGlynn reported in Bay Nature:

The turkeys arrived due to a long effort by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to establish the species as a game animal here. Starting in the 1870s and then again episodically in the early 1900s, the state released turkeys, but the efforts failed, mainly because the farm-raised birds couldn’t adapt to the wild. Then in the late 1970s DFG officials started capturing Rio Grande wild turkeys in Texas and releasing them in California, where they’ve adapted so well that their numbers have grown exponentially.

It's not unusual now to come upon flocks of 20 or more turkeys grazing the East Bay's oak woodlands. And they're not only here: Riding in southern Oregon last Thanksgiving, I was seconds away from being an ironic headline in the local newspaper when I rounded a corner on a steep descent and encountered a flock of gobblers, who luckily took wing at the last second. Last month, a local rider was not so fortunate when he collided with a turkey and later died of his injuries.

That tragic incident led to a lively conversation on the listserve of my local cycling club. Many riders recalled their own close calls with the ubiquitous fowl. One suggested using a fairing as a turkey deflector (pictured above--sadly practicable only for recumbents), in the manner of the cow-catchers on old locomotives. Most, however, simply savored their imminent revenge on turkey-kind. A happy--and safe--Thanksgiving to all.   

Wild turkey photo by NNehring/iStock. Recumbent fairing by TerraCycle.

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

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