MADISON, Wis. – Rather than rain or snow, or even dogs, postal workers in a West Side neighborhood near Owen Conservation Park are being pestered by wild turkeys this spring.
Mara Wilhite, manager of the Hilldale Station Post Office, said she expected to deal with all manner of issues when she went to work for the U.S. Post Office. But that was not one of them.
"Just when you thought you'd heard it all," she said.
About five to 10 of the birds have been pecking at the postal workers as they make their rounds, and some of the birds have attacked the letter carriers with the sharp spurs on their legs. One of the birds went through the open door of a mail truck and scratched the driver.
Wilhite sought help in the matter from Eric Lobner, regional wildlife program supervisor for the state Department of Natural Resources.
Lobner said the behavior is clearly tied to the breeding season, which started recently and runs through about mid-May.
Color plays an important role in turkey breeding, he said, with the color of the male's head during mating season changes from gaudy blue to white to red. Lobner speculated that perhaps the turkeys are attracted to the red, white and blue postal trucks.
Postal workers were armed with water pistols. But Lober said that, while the squirts of water worked for a while, the turkeys now seem accustomed to it.
Some workers have been using long sticks to fend off the birds, he said, adding that he will meet with Wilhite next week to discuss other possible solutions.
Part of the problem, Lobner said, is that residents around Owen Conservation Park around the Parkwood Hills neighborhood may be feeding the turkeys, which makes the birds less afraid of humans. He said pamphlets have been circulated in the neighborhood to discourage people from feeding the birds.