Roy Engoron arms himself from head to toe, readying for battle. Steeling himself for war.
He slips on his heavy pack and holsters his two sidearms. He knows whatever he encounters, whatever enemy should cross his path, he’ll be ready.
They have given him no choice, he must fight back.
It sounds as if Engoron is a young soldier, geared up and prepared to fight for his country, about to step out onto foreign soil and into the great unknown.
But Engoron isn’t overseas. He’s in Davis. North Davis, actually. And it’s not his life he’s protecting, or his country.
Roy Engoron is fighting for his house.
The heavy pack? A Super Soaker, loaded with water.
The sidearms? Not loaded guns, but an air horn and a rake.
For the past four months, Engoron has sparred with four-dozen wild turkeys that often roost, in luxury, in the fine canopy of a crop of redwoods that shade his back yard.
One of the highest points in the neighborhood, if not the highest, the wild birds find the trees irresistible.
But while turkeys are one of the many interesting and beautiful species of wildlife that fly, scamper and swim throughout Davis — even Engoron would admit to this — when more than 50 of the animal host sit-ins in the foliage above his home, the birds become less majestic, and more of a problem.
Engorons backyard has become a minefield of turkey droppings. The driveway has been hit, too. His roof, which the turkeys vault onto each day to scale atop the redwoods to snooze, has seen its better days.
“You can feel the concussion when they come down,” Engoron said earlier this month, pointing above his head as he sat in his north Davis home. “(A turkey) is a big bird, it’s not a Nightingale.”
Through his second-floor window, Engoron can see the nightmare of turkey poop that polka dot the roof of his garage, and in the center of it all, a single turkey feather, left behind, perhaps to remind Roy that they’d be back.
And Engoron isn’t the only north Davis resident that the turkey birds have terrorized.
All throughout the neighborhood surrounding Covell Park, residents have had to defend themselves from the roaming flock of turkeys.
They poop, they jump on roofs, they mess up landscapes. As many residents have described it, they’re just a mess. Especially in such large numbers. Some have counted up to 60 of them near the park.
One resident has strung up nets to protect the lush garden that frames the front of their home.
Another asks Engoron to come by every so often with his air horn to bully the birds away.
Across the street from Engoron, neighbor Inez Defazio also has been forced to give the birds the broom to move them along.
“If they would keep away from the property (they would be alright), but they really are a mess,” said Defazio standing outside of her home. “They fly up on my deck, and I’ve even seen them on top of my neighbor’s car.”
Across the park, Debbi Reinecke is concerned for the entire neighborhood.
“The poop is the worst,” Reinecke wrote in an email to The Enterprise. “It is on the sidewalks, in the pools and throughout the grass in the park. You can’t sit and kids cannot run barefoot without picking some up.”
In north Davis, they seem to be everywhere. But the truth is, they’re not everywhere. They actually only roam around a small stretch of streets near Covell Park.
And that’s the problem.
According to local experts, turkeys tend to be nomadic animals during the day that trek over large areas when foraging for food.
So what’s keeping them around?
Well, food of course.
The turkeys have found allies in other north Davis residents who have been leaving out supplemental food supplies for the birds.
There are some who openly feed them from their backyards, leaving birdseed out or other types of food, because they like watching the birds come by. There are others who, perhaps understandably, want to make sure the turkeys are getting enough to eat to survive.
But according to John McNerney, the city’s wildlife resources specialist, they’re getting plenty.
“Naturally, they would roam wide areas, many acres per day in search of food,” McNerney said. “What happens, what we’re seeing happen in the environment, is that the turkeys are not roaming around very far, they’re concentrating their activities to a few blocks in a neighborhood.
“What that suggests is that the turkeys are finding enough resources just in that small targeted area, enough food resources so that they don’t need to wander around.
“(Residents) think they’re doing good,” McNerney explained. “They’re attracting them to their back yard because they like to see them and think they’re supporting them and keeping them healthy.”
As Davis resident Elizabeth Elton told CBS13 News last week, she feeds them all the time.
“I just kind of put quite a bit out under my bird feeder and she comes along and eats it,” Elton said. “And people say, ‘Well don’t feed them,’ but what can you do? They’re hungry.”
And Elton isn’t the only resident that enjoys seeing the birds.
Lisa Boyce, who lives a few blocks away from Engoron, says its fun to share her neighborhood with the wildlife.
“I kind of like them,” said Boyce, while out walking her dog down the Covell greenbelt. “They hang around the street, in our garden. They’re a little messy, but that’s OK.”
Just down the street, Jo Ann Couche, who lives on the other side of Covell Park and only a few blocks from another notorious turkey roost, says they birds are learning other easy ways to find food as well.
“They know the schedule of yard waste pickup on Wednesdays and come pick up the seeds while one stands guard,” said Couche. “They love my yard, they like to eat walnut shells and the worms. But I understand why people would be upset.”
But McNerney believes the biggest problem is those residents who purposely feed the turkeys. If he could get them to stop, he believes that it would greatly help residents like Roy.
“If we’re able to get everybody to stop feeding them, they’ll go back into a more wider nomadic foraging behavior, which is natural to them; where they’ll radiate out further in search or resources.
“That would lessen daily impacts to residents like Roy. They would find alternative roost sites.”
But McNerney also said that he hasn’t received much cooperation from the residents that feed the turkeys. Even after approaching several residents to inform them of the effect that feeding the turkeys has on their neighbors, some have simply said they enjoy feeding them too much, and regardless of what he says, will continue to do so.
And, of course, it isn’t illegal to feeds birds in Davis.
The supplemental food supply also doesn’t necessarily explain why there are so many turkeys in the neighborhood compared to years past. Engoron said that a few years ago, there were only a few hanging around.
Engoron guesses its through reproduction that the birds have multiplied over the years, but McNerney has a different idea.
The city’s wildlife expert says there are several key nesting sites just outside the city where the birds probably reproduce and then wander in to join the flock.
Additionally, because the birds aren’t moving out of the neighborhood, past the city limits and into the ag land, the animals are avoiding the natural predation from coyotes that would normally occur, which would help thin out the pack.
Regardless of the reason for the bigger flock, Engoron sees the turkey and, subsequently, the turkey poop problem only becoming worse as the group grows.
But a large flock doesn’t necessarily bring about trapping, one of the ways the city or the Department of Fish and Game could transplant the birds.
As long as the animals aren’t demonstrating aggressive behavior, as several birds in the Davis Cemetery have in recent years, the city can’t deploy their traps.
“If they became more aggressive towards humans I would be concerned,” McNerney said.
But while the birds aren’t a public health and safety risk, the city is still working to help Engoron and his neighbors deal with the problem.
“The city’s intention over the next couple of months is to work on various avenues of targeted communication through direct mailers in impacted regions (to educate) what people can be doing to haze them and reduce conflict in their yards,” McNerney said.
Three weeks ago, Engoron sat down with McNerney and the City Manager Steve Pinkerton to try to hash out a solution to the situation
But as Engoron learned from the city, it’s up to him and his neighbors to take the time to get a handle on the birds.
So, every night, Engoron pulls on his Super Soaker pack, cocks his air horn and heads outside to protect his house, his roof and his neighborhood.
But until his neighbors stop feeding them, it’s likely that his war will wage on.
-Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash.