March 20 • 06:16 PM

Fall shopping spree goes wild

Blake's Almont Farm employees get friendly visit from pair of turkeys

Unusual visitors check out the pumpkins at Blake’s Almont Farm. The wild turkeys were so taken by the indoor/outdoor farm market that they stuck around for most of the day.

October 14, 2009
ALMONT — When it comes to customers at Blake's Almont Farm, assistant manager Linda Parks can say she's has seen just about everything.

Men, women, youngsters, families...all of the usual patrons who stop at the M-53 location to pick up fresh produce and enjoy homemade apple cider and baked goods.

But Linda is forced to call the authorities on a crisp fall day last season when an unusual couple stops in and find they like it so much, they just won't leave.

"These turkeys just walk into the store and casually start viewing everything," she says.

Iridescent feathers shining, the pair of wild birds wander through the greenhouse area and check out the pumpkins. They seem, Linda says, to be looking for just the right one.

After that they stroll through the open air market and peer into the dairy case—as if they're perplexed by so many choices.

The scene is too unusual to pass up, Linda says. She wants to record it on film.

"I call my husband Paul and say 'hurry up and bring the camera up here, I need it,'" she says.

Paul complies and Linda snaps off a few photos.

The turkeys don't seem to mind. In fact, Linda says, they like "shopping around" so much that they won't leave the store.

Confounded by their behavior, Linda makes a quick call to Seven Ponds Nature Center for advice. Since the birds seem so tame, she wonders if she can take them to her house in the country—about five miles away from the store—and let them go. She doesn't have to wonder for long. Naturalists at Seven Ponds tell her it's illegal to transport wildlife and advise that Linda call the Department of Natural Resources.

She does. After being transferred around to different agency locations, officials from the Port Huron office tell Linda to "corral" the birds, that they'll be there to pick them up.

Corraling the birds is no problem. They seem content to follow Linda around everywhere. She closes them in one of the greenhouses, where they seem perfectly content.

About three hours later officials from the DNR show up with large cages. They confine each bird and take them away. Linda has mixed emotions.

"They tell me they can't be released back into the wild because they have no fear of humans whatsoever," Linda says. "They say the tame turkeys will take a flock of young turkeys and teach them not to fear humans too."

The bottom line—trying to tame wildlife only hurts the animal, officials say.

While it's fine to have wild turkeys stop by a bird feeder or wander through a yard, people shouldn't habituate them by having them rely on food piles, says Seven Ponds Director/Naturalist Mike Champagne. Though the center is noted for its outstanding turkey viewing, the birds remain wild.

"It's not unusual at all for them to peck around our bird feeders, but when we go out there they run away," he says.

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