HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) – A couple of wild turkeys who have gained quite the following in Hilliard during the last few years are being moved out.
Of the three turkeys first spotted in the city around 2021, one remains free, and city and wildlife officials are hoping to capture it for eventual release into a natural environment outside of Hilliard.
The second turkey was captured and is being held by state wildlife officials until the first bird can be caught, the city wrote in a statement posted Sunday. The third turkey was taken to the Ohio Wildlife Center in January after it was injured by what officials believe to be an animal bite.
Once the first turkey is captured, at least the first two birds will be released to an area that does not allow hunting but will allow the animals to interact with other wild turkeys, the city said. Officials hope the third turkey can recover enough to be released into the wild.
Until the last turkey is caught, the city is reminding people to not approach the animal, not feed the animal, and avoid getting close to it for photos.
The city released a number of pictures of the birds back in February 2022, with Hilliard city forester Andy Beare then warning residents not to feed or interact with the turkeys as that could make them acclimate to humans, making it more attractive to remain within city limits.
“Unfortunately, humans have made it more attractive to stay in Hilliard by feeding them, approaching them for photos, and otherwise habituating them to close contact with people,” the city said in the statement released Sunday.
Hilliard and wildlife officials made the decision to relocate the birds due to the hazards they face because of traffic and human interaction. The city said the birds frequently walk or fly into busy traffic, which could cause an accident.
The city said pictures on social media showed two men catching the turkeys and trying to get them into a vehicle. There was also an unconfirmed report in January of someone attacking the birds with a stick, the city said.
“It is not uncommon for wild turkeys to be found in suburban communities such as Hilliard, so relocating them for their own safety is generally a last resort,” the city wrote.