Wandering wild turkeys become social media celebrities in Boise’s North End

Action shot: One of the North End’s famous wild turkeys, photographed by Mark Goforth.
Action shot: One of the North End’s famous wild turkeys, photographed by Mark Goforth. Mark Goforth

Hazel and Bella, two wild turkey hens, have taken up residence in Boise’s North End.

The birds, first spotted near 13th and Ridenbaugh streets in March 2016, stroll under the watchful eye of neighbors who chart their travels through Facebook, Twitter and especially through Nextdoor.com, the neighborhood’s private social network.

“One day they are on 11th and Lemp and another they are on 20th and Brumback. We in the ’hood update, and are updated, as to their whereabouts every day,” said Shaun Hammersmark, a landscape designer. “Some tire of this daily briefing, but most absolutely love it.”

Neighborhood resident Mark Goforth has photographed lots of wildlife, including hawks and owls in his backyard. Still, he was startled last week when he looked out his kitchen window.

“It was just lunchtime on a boring day. I looked out and there was this giant, historic bird sitting there on the fence,” said Goforth. “I dropped everything and got my camera.”

The wild turkey stayed on the fence long enough for Goforth to get a good shot. She flew away, only to rejoin her partner in Goforth’s front yard.

“To have nature in the form of these wild animals in your yard and have these sightings. You couldn’t dream up anything better,” said Goforth.

Dave Green recently featured the turkeys on his website, The North End. The post includes photos of the birds snapped by various neighbors in various locations throughout the year: the turkeys standing in a yard at 6th and Pueblo, nibbling at something on the sidewalk at 16th and Hazel, strolling Harrison Boulevard, heading toward Camel’s Back Park.

One neighbor said the birds spend the night in a tree near her house, then “swoop down at dawn like flying monkeys.”

“These two have ranged from the far, eastern edge of the neighborhood to as far west as Anderson and 32nd,” said Green. “They wander for miles. They cross 13th on a fairly regular basis.”

The harsh winter has brought a lot of wildlife down from the Foothills, he said. Frequent elk and deer sightings have been cropping up among the turkey posts.

One neighbor, Melissa Stoner, has noticed a “roving gang of urban chukars” near her home. Other neighbors have spotted a great gray owl.

The neighborhood also has hundreds of resident raccoons and some more exotic visitors, said Green, like bears, coyotes, even mountain lions.

“But these turkeys struck everyone as being so benevolent,” he said. “They’re just out for walk. They don’t have an agenda.”

Over the past year, the turkey pair became so well known in the neighborhood that Green held an online contest to name them. The historic North End street names won out, though some persist in calling the girl turkeys Thelma and Louise, or Christmas and Thanksgiving.

“Hazel” was the top pick. In a tight three-way race, “Bella” won out over Irene and Dewey.

Green owns a digital design and marketing firm, North End Creative. He’s thought of creating some kind of interactive tracking map to chart the course of the turkey pair, but he and neighbors worry that publicizing the birds’ location too closely might put them in danger. So for now, turkey sightings are frequent, but chance encounters.

Green said it’s possible the turkeys will part ways this spring if one, or both find mates. Hazel and Bella are not the only wild turkeys in town. At least one wild tom turkey has been spotted around Cartwright Road, he said.

“But that makes all of my parental instincts kick in,” said Green. “We’ll look out for our girls.”