News & Events

Injured Turkey Captured, Treated and Released

November 18, 2011

Two Department of Fish and Game (DFG) employees successfully captured an elusive wild turkey with an arrow in its tail.

Warden Patrick Foy and DFG Wildlife Veterinarian Ben Gonzales found the adult male bird in the early morning hours of November 18 and used a netgun to capture it. Once captured, Foy and Gonzales transported the bird to the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

The wild turkey was evaluated by a team of veterinarians specializing in avian species and surgery. X-rays were taken to determine the extent of the injury, and the team went to work.

In the news (video and news report)

Doctor Michelle Hawkins spoke after the turkey received treatment. “This is one very lucky boy.The arrow went into soft tissue of the tail and missed vital organs. With the bird under anesthesia, we cut off the end of the arrow and removed it from the tail, cleaned the wound, treated the turkey with antibiotics and administered pain medication. Once the bird awoke from anesthesia and could stand on his own, he was ready for release.”

The warden and several veterinarians drove the turkey back to the area and roosting site where he had been found, an open field at the outskirts of Davis. Together, they opened his cage. He immediately began to run, then make a short, low, gliding flight into some bushes some yards away where he was able to hide.

Gonzales, Foy and Hawkins agreed that releasing the bird as soon as possible would be best as wild birds in captivity undergo significant stress to their health. Hawkins stated at the release scene, "The treatment went so well that we wanted to get him back out as soon as possible. It would do more harm than good to keep him."

What would have happened if the turkey had been left alone? "Over time," Hawkins explained, "the tail tissue might have died, and he might have lost his tail, which would make him unable to fly."

The bird came to the attention of the department the week of November 7. At that time, DFG experts evaluated him and determined he was stable, but too mobile to trap, Foy said. 

Wild turkey season is open through the Sunday after Thanksgiving, although the turkey was shot prior to the season opener and wounded with a target arrow instead of a hunting arrow, both illegal actions. Foy, a turkey hunter himself, said that this incident was illegal in several respects: the arrow was a target arrow, the animal was shot before turkey hunting season had opened, and hunting is not permitted within city limits. 

National Bird

Weighing up to 20 pounds, the wild turkey was once under consideration to be the national bird for the United States. While these wild game birds seem harmless, they are anything but that. Many homeowners can’t resist feeding them. What starts out as innocent fun can quickly become a big nuisance – destroying flower and vegetable gardens, leaving their droppings on patios and decks, and roosting on cars.

If you are encountering turkeys, Foy recommends the following:

  • If turkeys begin feeding under hanging bird feeders, remove the feeders until the turkeys leave.
  • If turkeys are causing problems in your yard, install motion-detecting sprinklers.
  • Wild turkeys typically will not enter yards with dogs.

More information about co-existing with wild turkeys can be found at the Department of Fish and Game website, http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/turkey.html

The Companion Avian and Exotic Pet Service provides specialized diagnostic testing, medical treatments, surgical options and emergency care for pet birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and small mammals. The veterinarians work in conjunction with all specialty services within the VMTH including surgery, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, and others. Our cooperative approach allows pets to be evaluated by experts in the specialized discipline of interest while still being managed by our exotics clinicians, who have extensive expertise and experience in exotic animal medicine. The veterinarians consulted with small animal surgeons on this case, which also provided an unusual advanced training opportunity for veterinary residents intending to specialize in exotic medicine or small animal surgery.