Hell-Raising Turkeys Are Taking Over Staten Island

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

Is a hunt in the works? Probably not. Here’s what residents and wildlife officials want to do about the problem

Don’t tell folks in Staten Island, New York, or those calling the neighborhood of Brookline, Massachusetts, home (the municipality list for such city birds is longish) that wild turkeys are facing declines in some parts of the country. Their asphalt streets are full of the birds.

Mail-delivery-chasing gobblers. Window-pecking renegades, intent to beat up their own reflections. Traffic-snarling winged warriors.

And then there’s all the turkey poop they leave on their daily travels — something we turkey hunters seek out when piecing the scouting puzzle together. Of course, we dub it “droppings.”

The Staten Island birds are hybrids of released domestic and wild birds (likely captive-bred). Image by Pitofotos/Shutterstock

Hybrid Hoodlums

This challenge for Staten Island residents — property owners and motorists alike — is historically long, and seemingly unfixable.

As the story goes via multiple media outlets over the many years (including this turkey blog), state officials say the Staten Island birds are hybrids of released domestic and wild birds (likely captive-bred), intermingled and breeding and happily raising hell over the years, wreaking havoc on intended law and order.

Seems a local resident released her pet turkeys at the South Beach Psychiatric Center (I am not making this up), and since then, these birds — and even possibly some wild interlopers thinking a turkey is a turkey is a turkey — have furthered the disruptive mayhem.

And that release? Way back in the late 1990s. Turkeys can make a lot of little city turkeys in 20-plus years.

Feather Happy

As artist Caroline Barnes says, her work celebrates Brookline, Massachusetts, and its “freewheeling fearless feathered friends, aka our wild turkeys. Viewed by many as an invasive species, turkeys are native to this area and are simply returning home.”

You see, Barnes is cool with the birds.

“But they haven’t exactly received a warm welcome, have they?” she says. “Plenty of people fear them, distrust them, hate them. Does this stop turkeys from living their turkascious lives? Heck, no. They continue to strut down the street, hold up traffic, block doors, and destroy mirrors. You’ve got to admit, that’s pure moxie. And perhaps this is why I so admire them.”

In fact, you can check out her merch on these renegade Bay State birds here.

Unlike the Staten Island mobsters, these city-street dwellers are human-habituated wild turkeys, birds I like to call “untouchables.”

[Turkeys You Can’t Hunt: The Untouchables]

Management Challenges

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is at odds with the Staten Island birds. They don’t want to relocate the hybrids among wild turkey populations. Also, it seems there are limited facilities willing or able to adopt the birds.

Some city residents clearly enjoy seeing the turkeys. Some, not so much. Some might think a controlled archery hunt might help put a dent in the rogue population, and meat might then be donated to local food banks. Others object to such planned killings.

For now, these particular city turkeys are winning.

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