OCEAN BREEZE — Thanksgiving is coming early for the turkeys who call Staten Island home.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has started to round up the roughly 80 turkeys and some chickens who live on the grounds of the South Beach Psychiatric Center in Ocean Breeze. They're being sent to the slaughterhouse, the Staten Island Advance originally reported.
Starting early Monday morning, the USDA herded the turkeys into temporary corrals, captured them by hand or by shooting an air cannon net, and sent to a processing facility, said Carol Bannerman, spokeswoman for the USDA.
“The resulting meat will be stored frozen until testing confirms its suitability for donation for human consumption,” Bannerman said.
The removal was started after complaints by the psychiatric center staff about sanitary issues, aggressiveness of some birds and traffic problems caused by turkeys crossing Seaview Avenue, Bannerman said.
“The state’s South Beach Psychiatric Center, Staten Island, was concerned about excessive feces accumulation on handrails, walkways and the grounds,” Bannerman said. “Concerns were expressed about potential bacterial contamination when droppings are inadvertently carried into the facility.”
Feeding of the turkeys by residents have caused them to be unafraid of humans, and some turkeys have been aggressive towards staff, patients and visitors, Bannerman said. The crossing of turkeys on Seaview Avenue can also be dangerous to emergency vehicles driving to Staten Island University Hospital North, which is next door to the center.
Bannerman also said that the center in 2008 worked with the state to reduce feeding of the turkeys by residents and stop them from walking into the street, but has been unsuccessful.
“In addition to ‘No Feeding’ signage, they have tried harassment and exclusion methods,” she said. “These included erecting porcupine wire on gates, fences and rails to deter roosting. Damage has continued.”
While residents have previously called the turkeys a nuisance around the neighborhood, some jumped to try and save what was left of their colony Tuesday.
Elisa DiSimone, an environmentalist, said she has placed calls with elected officials and organized meetings with local environmentalists to save the estimated 30 she thought were still there.
“They have been here way before man has populated Staten Island,” she said. “I think the idea of just annihilating what seems to be in the way is not a good thing to show our children and to show our future generations.”
DiSimone said she understood that the psychiatric hospital staff did not want them on the property anymore, but hoped they could just relocate the birds to another spot.
“We do have a lot of parks on Staten Island, they could be relocated to different parks,” she said. “I don’t think that the collection and slaughter of them is a good way to do it.”
The USDA said because the flock contains some hybrid turkeys they could not be relocated. Their permit allows for the capture of all turkeys on the site, and the USDA will make several more visits to the site until they're all gone.