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Houston-area suburbs see uptick in feral hog populations...

Feral cats can be a big problem, as they have the tendency to reproduce quickly, which can easily get out of hand.

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Stray cats can spread diseases and parasites to other animals, even your own domestic pets. They can damage native bird populations, and leave unwanted carcasses of rodents and birds behind to decompose and smell.

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They can also leave the strong scent of urination and defecatation, and create many other unsanitary messes. Unfortunately, these anti-feeding messages are not getting through to many members of the general public. On some level the urge to feed wildlife is understandable. People are looking for that special connection, that elusive contact across species.

They want to get close to nature, to the natural world.

For many, a flock of wild turkeys openly feeding on a lawn or strutting down a sidewalk offers a glimpse into the unknowable wild. Unfortunately, they do not seem to realize that countless wild animals in urban areas are euthanized for public safety once they become habituated to human-supplied food sources. Most feeders no doubt think of turkey provisioning as either helpful to the turkeys or a benign activity.

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Unfortunately, this practice is harmful and a major contributory cause of human-turkey conflicts, creating many turkey-haters and generations of so-called turkey hooligans. Or, as Scott Gardner warns, 'If you really care about the wild turkeys, you won't feed them because you are making them into pests and putting them into a situation where they may have to be killed.

If food sources disappear will the turkeys and the chaos disappear? No, the turkeys are here to stay.

There is no perfect solution. By eliminating some of the food, however, we can possibly make life easier for residents and eradicate some of the chaos. They also access resources from the urban landscape nuts, acorns, fruits, flowers, invertebrates, etc. Even with total support from the community in removing supplemental food—and it has to be total support since, if even just one resident continues to feed—the turkeys will continue to focus their daily activity around that feeder and they would still be attracted to, and be able to make a living in, that area.

Obviously, the less comfortable turkeys are around humans the more likely they are to move out of the urban areas. Accept it. Probably the best we can do is to try to make them not feel welcome in our homes.

Suburban Feral: A Collection of Poems

The views expressed are those of the author s and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. Dawn Starin, an anthropologist, has spent decades doing research, mostly in Africa and Asia. Find out why Add to Clipboard. Add to Collections. Order articles.

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