On the streets of the Riverview and into the Skyline neighborhood of Great Falls, more and more people are seeing a family of wild turkeys. They’ve become a social media sensation and it looks like they won’t be leaving the Electric City anytime soon.
They’ve become such a hit, they grace the cover of a Facebook page for Riverview residents.
The fascination started a few years ago when a turkey affectionately dubbed "Mrs. Butters" started making the rounds. An online poll in July 2020 created by Zaeda June resulted in the name choice; other contenders included "Dinner" and "Flo."
Now Mrs. Butters and her (now nearly-grown) babies - known as poults - can be seen roaming the streets of the neighborhood regularly.
Turkeys are not native to Montana. In the 1950’s, they were released throughout the state, and several years ago, turkeys were introduced in north-central Montana.
David Hagengruber of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks said, “Upstream and downstream of Great Falls on the Missouri River, they were brought in from Nebraska and released to augment those populations a little bit.”
This subspecies is known as Merriam's wild turkey, one of several wild turkey subspecies.
Hagengruber says turkeys are not typically aggressive toward people, but they can be intimidating.
Like many Riverview residents, Kyle Perrin’s yard provides a frequent stop for wild turkeys.
One morning Kyle says he inched his car out of the garage while the turkeys were slowly making their way across the driveway: “Four of them went along, the fifth one is the one that jumped up on there and just kind of stared me down for a minute.”
Hagengruber says the turkeys will be fine without any supplemental food and FWP discourages people from feeding the wild animals.
He noted, “There’s disease issues. Whenever they get concentrated they’re more susceptible to disease. They’re also going to become more vulnerable to predators and can attract predators.”
For those worried about the turkeys' safety with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, Hagengruber notes that FWP Region IV doesn't have a fall turkey season and reminds people that shooting wildlife in city limits is illegal.
Perrin said that most drivers remain "turkey aware" behind the wheel in the area: “The people I’ve seen that have gone by and see the turkeys in my yard or moving along, a lot of them do kind of slow down and just take a quick peek."
Hagengruber added, “They’re probably going to become more common. They're going to spread further into Great Falls and around Great falls. If you haven’t seen them yet, there’s a good chance you probably will.”
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