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Staten Island Turkeys Still a Nuisance Despite Cull and Relocation

By Nicholas Rizzi | October 17, 2013 10:06am
 Barbara Verderame said turkeys have been a nuisance in her front yard for nearly 15 years.
Ocean Breeze Turkeys
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OCEAN BREEZE — Despite a partial cull and an effort to truck them to sanctuary, a flock of 60 Staten Island turkeys is still causing nuisance on the streets of Ocean Breeze.

The recent efforts to control the bird population did nothing to decrease the number that live in a large tree in front of neighborhood resident Barbara Verderame's yard, the Staten Island Advance first reported.

"They block the traffic when they come down [from the tree] in the morning," Verderame told DNAinfo New York. "They're pooping in the gutter, which is backing up water. It's costing us more money that we wouldn't have to pay if they weren't around.

"This is not the right place for them."

Verderame said the turkeys cluck all morning and afternoon, waking her family up at sunrise and, because of their poop, grass doesn't grow in the yard of her home on the corner of Laconia and Cromwell avenues.

"We can't grow grass. It's an expense to clean this up all the time," she said. "We didn't get these pets, we didn't buy these pets. Now we got to clean up after them."

Verderame said it costs her family $25 weekly to clean up after the turkeys in the yard, and they have even damaged the gutters on the roof of their home.

While Verderame doesn't feed the turkeys, she said people often throw bread out of their cars as they drive by, and many stop and take pictures of the birds.

"It's almost like coming to a zoo," she said. "People stop, they throw bread, they throw whatever out. They want to take a picture with the turkeys."

After numerous pleas, Verderame thought the turkeys would be removed with the ones that lived at the South Beach Psychiatric Center.

But so far, hers have stayed.

"My aunt (who lives next door) has talked to everybody," she said about removing the birds. "It seems that no one wants to take responsibility for them."

While Verderame doesn't want the birds sent to the slaughterhouse, animal activists worry that the recent uptick in complaints from Ocean Breeze residents might lead to another government cull.

"I am very worried that these birds don't have very long to live," said David Karopkin, head of GooseWatch NYC, which helped relocate the first 25 turkeys to a farm in the Catskills. That sanctuary is now full and unable to take more birds.

"That is the likely consequence when people complain about animals they find to be a nuisance."

Karopkin said he has been working on finding a new home for the birds on Verderame's property, but it's an expensive endeavor.

Because the flock is a hybrid — a mixture of domestic and wild turkeys — they cannot be released into the wild, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

An animal sanctuary would have to build an enclosed barn for the birds, which cost $20,000 the last time, Karopkin said.

Karopkin said he started to reach out to sanctuaries for help, but asked for patience from residents while he finds the turkeys a new home.

"I think that it's only fair, now that the issue has come to a head, to be patient enough to give some time for all of the stakeholders to try to resolve this in a way that doesn't involve killing the birds," he said.

He's trying to push the state to enforce a strict no-feeding policy so the birds don't keep returning to the same spot.

"You can't even enjoy your yard," Verderame said. "It really disrupts a lot of things. It's not cute anymore."