NASA Research Center Was Reportedly Under Siege by Wild Turkeys

by Matthew Memrick
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Wild turkeys recently took a California NASA research center under siege and an unidentified person feeding the birds is to blame.

Sure, mail carriers and delivery people know all about this pain for years. Now, NASA employees are getting hassled. 

The large birds caused havoc, blocking traffic around the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. But things got worse when the male birds got pretty aggressive, pecking on car doors and windows.

Field and Stream reported on the disruptive flock recently.

Wildlife Officials Attempt To Get Things Under Control

California Department of Fish and Wildlife official Ken Paglia described the male turkeys as “a little bit aggressive” during mating season.

Space.com said the turkeys pooped on HVAC units and others areas while posing “a threat to aircraft operations.” 

“Turkeys have gotten close to Moffett Federal Airfield, but none have entered the airfield, and there have been no incidents, no near misses, or close calls either,” a NASA Ames spokesperson told Space.com. 

USDA spokesperson Tanya Espinosa told The San Jose Mercury News that people have been feeding the group of 18 to 22 turkeys, worsening the situation. Some estimates say there are close to 30 gobblers running around.

“They can kind of charge after people sometimes,” Paglia said.

Situation So Bad NASA Moves Turkeys

Paglia told the Mercury News that the agency wouldn’t relocate the birds ordinarily.

But things have been pretty bad.

NASA is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to catch and relocate the birds. They plan to take them to the 3,000-acre San Antonio Valley Ecological Reserve. The reserve is almost two hours west of the federal agency’s complex.

“This measure protects the safety and well-being of the turkeys, as well as the Ames community and workforce,” NASA said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the agency used a unique trap. They had a walk-in corral trap with a detachable funnel entrance. The birds check in, but they have a hard time getting out.

Paglia said the reserve already had a small group of turkeys there.

“It’s a suitable habitat,” he said. “There are food sources, and there are water sources. So, if everything goes according to plan, those turkeys will be relocated to the ecological reserve.”

NASA, Other Suburban Areas Victim To Turkey Invasion 

Another reason for the wild turkey attacks comes with the pecking order. These turkeys get ornery within a particular flock as they battle to be dominant. These turkey behaviors usually happen during the spring and fall seasons.

Nature Journal writer Matthew L. Miller said the birds find safety in the suburbs from hunters. Many of these areas are a “nice mix of habitats, with trees, vacant lots, parks and yards providing plenty of foraging space.” 

Miller said the bird could adapt quickly to these surroundings. They take over bird feeders and backyard gardens while losing “their fear of people.”

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