ALBANY -- They come at dusk. Almost every single night at dusk. Neighbors peer out of their windows across the street at the curious parade. Drivers coming home from work are forced to sit in their cars until the group gets out of the street.

But once the parade is over, the rafter of wild turkeys ends up in the giant redwood tree in the backyard of Pareen Shah and Renu Bhatt. The tree, perhaps 100 feet tall and rumored to be the oldest in Albany, has become a roosting place for as many as 30 of the large game birds. And although the turkeys leave their nocturnal roost during the day, ample evidence remains behind.

Think unwanted fertilizer.

"There are droppings all over the yard, all over the house and our garage," Bhatt said. "Our kids are not allowed outside, I don't like to go outside. It's so gross, it smells like a zoo."

Shah and Bhatt have two small boys, ages 4½ and 1. On Sunday, Bhatt carried the little one on her hip while the older child followed Shah and a reporter around the property.

The older boy looked like he hadn't been allowed outside in months, running around and throwing a piece of plastic in the air, then bending over to pick it up with his father reminding him not to play near the droppings.

The turkeys first appeared about a year ago -- just a few on a neighbor's roof, according to Shah.


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"They came and they were gone," he said. "They didn't stick around for long. It was during the day. They were on the roof and then they flew across the street and went away. They were only here for several hours at most. At that time it was kind of endearing. 'That's kind of interesting, wild turkeys in Albany.'"

Things changed, interestingly, around Thanksgiving. Suddenly, after the couple had the redwood tree trimmed, a flock of turkeys began roosting in it. Shah and Bhatt were told spraying the birds with water or making noise by banging pots and pans might drive them off. But the tree is tall enough that the turkeys just move higher.

"The hose has worked for our neighbors but we have yet to find a nozzle that is powerful enough to get them out of the tree," Bhatt said.

It's not clear whether the five or six original turkeys "multiplied," or if the gobble on the street spread to other turkeys about the cool accommodations. However, mating season is beginning -- on Sunday, one of the Toms was puffed up and strutting down the sidewalk -- and 30 turkeys could become a lot more pretty quickly.

Shah spoke at the City Council meeting Feb. 19 and the next day, city staff was working with county and state agencies to try to find a solution, said city clerk Nicole Almaguer.

"There's regulations regarding wild animals," she said. "We're also seeking assistance from a wildlife rescue to see if there's anything that can be done humanely to get the turkeys out of the backyard. This is really outside of the city's capacity, we really don't have any wildlife expertise on staff."

Dan Wilson, Community Relations coordinator of Alameda County Vector Control, said that while there is probably no reason to worry about the turkeys spreading any specific disease, turkeys can become aggressive, especially if people are illegally feeding them.

"The main thing that they do, if you have plants in your yard, they'll dig them up and eat them," Wilson said. "They'll jump on your cars and scratch them. They can charge people. We've had some examples where they've charged older people and they fell down."

Turkeys are not native to California, according to Wilson, and were introduced in the 1960s as game for hunters by what is now known as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Wilson added that there is only one way, under state regulations, to get rid of the turkeys: by issuing a predation license and having them trapped and killed. Shah and Bhatt are looking for a more humane solution -- they would like the turkeys relocated.

"I don't want to relocate the problem to another town or neighborhood," Bhatt said. "If they would stay in the country or in a zoo that would be ideal."

Shah said he was very happy with the city's response.

"The fact that it looks like there's action developing and energy to doing something, that's encouraging for us," he said. "The fact it might take a few weeks, we're fine with."

He called the situation a "comic nuisance."

"At the end of the day, it's a nuisance," he said. "There are far, far greater problems than having a bunch of wild turkeys in your backyard."

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