Wild turkeys are ruffling feathers both around campus and on social media this month.
On Feb. 3, 2019, a video with more than 25,000 views posted on Barstool Cal Poly’s Instagram showed three turkeys chasing a student up Grand Avenue toward the Yosemite and Sierra Madre residence halls. The 25-second video shows the student fleeing with the turkeys hot on their heels. The birds even followed the student up the stairs leading to the dorms.
More recently, a Facebook post made Feb. 22, 2019 on the Cal Poly SLO Mustang Parents page also drew attention to the tyrannical turkeys. With more than 100 comments, concerned parents shared accounts of aggressive turkey behavior. At least five parents said their students were chased or “attacked” by turkeys around the Yosemite and Sierra Madre residence halls.
Other parents joked about what to do about the bullying birds. One comment suggested the wild turkeys should be served to students as a way to improve campus dining.
Many of the comments assured worried parents the turkey behavior is normal for mating season, and advised students to simply leave the wild animals alone. This did not appease some parents however, who said their students were attacked without inciting the turkeys at all.
“She didn’t even walk toward them,” Cheryl Paul, a mother of a student living on-campus, said. “She didn’t do anything to make them chase her.”
Paul’s daughter was walking to her dorm when she noticed a few turkeys blocking the door. Her daughter decided to leave the turkeys alone and left to use another entrance. But the birds ran after her.
“I felt really bad for her, because I’m sure it was horrifying,” Paul said.
Paul shared her daughter’s experience in the comments on the Mustang Parents page.
“Another lady posted they [the turkeys] were actually pecking her daughter. That’s so scary,” Paul said. “I just feel like someone should definitely do something about it,” Paul said.
Anne Garcia, another Cal Poly parent, echoed this thought on a different Facebook post.
“I’m just curious why there isn’t more effort to relocate them to avoid students being hurt or chased if it has been an ongoing problem for years?” Garcia wrote.
When asked whether University Housing has received any complaints or plans to do anything about the turkeys, University Housing declined to comment.
Another post on the Cal Poly SLO Class of 2019 page told of four other students chased down by the birds.
“It was traumatizing,” environmental management and protection senior Scott Shaffer wrote.
Shaffer lives off campus near the Yosemite and Sierra Madre dorms. Although he often sees the turkeys in his neighborhood, one recent morning the birds turned hostile.
“As I started to walk toward the car, three of them ran at me,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer said he dashed back inside his house and shut the door to hide from the “insanely big” animals. The turkeys followed him there and pecked at the screen door.
When Shaffer finally made it to his car, the turkeys were close behind him.
“They were in front of my car and wouldn’t let me leave,” he said. “They started stabbing their faces at my tires and pecking at my window.”
While confrontations with on-campus turkeys is nothing new to Cal Poly, the birds’ level of aggression has caused an unusual amount of attention on social media this year.
“I was very surprised,” Shaffer said. “They seemed mad for some reason.”
Robert J. Spiller, a professor and poultry specialist for the animal science department, said the bird’s hormonal system peaks this time of year as the days get longer.
Spiller said the wild turkeys have thrived on campus for years. Unlike domesticated turkeys, these birds can fly. This makes it extremely difficult to keep the turkeys out of a particular area.
“They’re all over San Luis Obispo county and they go where they want to go,” Spiller said.
Spiller advised students encountering aggressive turkeys to pick up a stick and try to shoo the birds away. He said students should not be too concerned.
“I don’t think [students] have to worry about those turkeys inflicting a lot of pain,” Spiller said.
Running from the turkey’s may be more dangerous, as was the case for a professor in 2012 who fell and hit his head trying to get away.
Nancy Imbery, another parent, agreed. Her son, Alex Imbery, was chased about a year ago around the Cerro Vista dorms.
“It’s’ been a source of great humor for us,” she said. “He never actually felt threatened.”
Her son’s roommates filmed the incident and posted it to the Facebook group Overheard at Cal Poly.
Imbery said she noticed how other parents seemed worried about the “wild animals” being on the loose. She said she does not see the turkeys as a legitimate threat.
“We just see it as part of nature,” she said.