Ticked off turkey terrorizes Bloomfield Hills workers

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Can’t blame a turkey for being in a fowl mood Thanksgiving week, but a particularly grumpy gobbler is causing unhappy holidays for tenants of a Bloomfield Hills office complex.

About 10 wild turkeys have taken up residence in the Governor’s Place complex at Woodward and Long Lake, and tenants say one angry bird is making their lives miserable.

A wild turkey perches on a fence at The Governor's Place complex in Bloomfield, Mich., Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. Gary Malerba/Special To The Detroit News

“We’ve gotten complaints that people have been chased by an aggressive turkey,” said Shari Miotto, customer service representative for the complex’s management firm, Beachum & Roeser.

Mary Marx, an office manager in a law firm at the complex, was followed by the ticked-off Tom outside work.

“I went to the mailbox one day and the turkey was hanging around,” she said. “I said, ‘Hi, turkey,’ and he started following me. I looked back and he was gaining on me. One of the tenants who was coming out of the building splashed some coffee in the turkey’s direction and he ran away.”

Lynn Rosenthal, Marx’s co-worker, has had to run into her office, the turkey nipping at her heels. “There’s one turkey who terrorizes me,” she said. “He’s really mean, and he’s not afraid of anything. I have to sneak into the building because if he sees me, he chases me.”

Rampant development in Metro Detroit has encroached on wildlife habitats, causing animals — including coyotes and turkeys — to wander into suburban neighborhoods and business districts, experts say.

In recent years, reports of aggressive wild turkeys have surfaced in several Metro Detroit suburbs and at the University of Michigan, where a particularly nasty bird that was bullying students was caught this summer on the North Campus.

“We got a bazillion reports about the turkey,” university spokeswoman Diane Brown said. “Actually, there were two turkeys on the North Campus; we’re pretty sure one was hit by a car. The other one was trapped and taken to an animal sanctuary. The students said it was pretty mean.”

Brown said a local reporter covering the aggressive bird got a first-hand look at its malevolence. “It had him trapped in his car, and was pecking at his tires,” she said.

Officials from Beachum & Roeser, the management company for the Governor’s Place complex, contacted the state Department of Natural Resources this month on how to handle the turkeys.

The DNR replied in an email last week that the agency doesn’t eradicate wild turkeys, but offered a tip: Show the bird who’s boss.

“Your best bet ... is to begin a program of gentle hazing, where you re-establish your dominance over the turkeys,” wrote Holly Vaughn Joswick, the DNR’s wildlife outreach technician. “You can chase the birds, clap your hand or make other loud noises, open an umbrella near them, squirt them with water — really anything that might scare them off.”

Michigan’s turkey population plummeted from the late 1800s and into the 20th century as they were killed by hunters. But a reintroduction program worked: Last year, for the first time, wild turkeys were found in every county in the state, according to the DNR website.

Since the DNR program was introduced in 1954, Michigan has been a boon for the birds and those who hunt them: In 1977, only 400 turkeys were harvested during hunting season; last year, there were more than 30,000, according to the agency.

But more turkeys bring more problems.

“Turkeys damage cars, shingles, decks, gardens, landscaping and other property by pecking, scratching and defecating,” the DNR website says. “Turkey flocks numbering between 80-100 birds have been documented in some neighborhoods. Several residents from these neighborhoods ... have been experiencing considerable turkey damage.”

Turkeys become aggressive when they become too cozy with humans, said Ashlie Smith, a naturalist for the Nature Center in Farmington Hills, where residents in recent years have reported turkey-related incidents.

“Turkeys have a pecking order, like wolves in a pack,” Smith said. “Each has a role to play, and if a human doesn’t establish itself as higher on that pecking order, the turkey may think it’s above them and become aggressive. Turkeys should have a healthy fear of humans.”

The turkey loitering outside the Governor’s Place offices isn’t afraid of anyone, said Rosenthal, who is this reporter’s fiancee.

“I was sitting in my car one day and watched it go after a man who was coming into the office,” she said. “The man was holding his briefcase in front of him as a shield, and the turkey kept pecking at him.

“I thought it was funny, but then when I got out of my car, the turkey started coming after me,” she said. “I’m not laughing now.”


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