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Staten Island Turkey Cull Will Restart, Dept of Agriculture Says

By Nicholas Rizzi | October 24, 2013 2:06pm
 The USDA said the plan to cull the turkeys are still in effect, even after some were relocated.
Staten Island Turkey Cull Still Planned
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OCEAN BREEZE — Looks like Thanksgiving isn't the Staten Island turkeys' only worry anymore.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday that it still plans to cull the gaggle of birds on the grounds of the South Beach Psychiatric Center, despite activists' impression that the trip to the slaughterhouse had been called off.

The bird-lovers thought they saved the Staten Island flock — which hospital staffers complained were ornery and unsanitary — since the USDA hasn't made a collection in months and sent 28 of the birds to an animal sanctuary upstate in September.

But the USDA said that collecting the birds was never called off.

"The agreement and effort to reduce human health and safety hazards at the South Beach Psychiatric Center remains in effect," said Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman for the agency. "This project was expected to require several collections over a period of time."

The renewed push to cull the approximately 40 remaining birds ruffled the activists' feathers.

"Everybody's kind of pissed off and not sure what to do," said David Karopkin, of GooseWatch NYC. "All efforts thus far have fallen on deaf ears."

The cull would only apply to birds on the psychiatric hospital's grounds and not those that have been spotted around the neighborhood. Bannerman did not have any details on further collection of the birds.

Karopkin said activists have been asking for the USDA and the Department of Environmental Conservation to give them more time to find places for the other birds to go, but fear they won't be able to stop the next collection.

Finding an enclosed space is difficult and the cost is high.

The USDA first started to round up the estimated 80 turkeys that called the psychiatric center grounds home in August and send them to a slaughterhouse.

The cull came on the heels of complaints that the turkeys were aggressive towards workers, residents and visitors, blocked traffic for emergency vehicles on Seaview Avenue, and caused unsanitary conditions on the grounds by pooping everywhere.

After the first collection, residents in the area banded together to protest the plans and ask for a relocation, and some even set up a round-the-clock watch on the birds.

But the DEC said the flock couldn't be relocated because it contained hybrids domestic and wild turkeys and the upstate animal sanctuary that took in some had to build an enclosed space just for them.

Bannerman said the DEC has worked with staff since 2008 to try and quell the turkey problem without a trip to the slaughter house by putting "No Feeding" signs up and trying to control harassment, to no avail.

"We recognize that community members have different attitudes about the presence of the turkeys and their removal," Bannerman said.

"Despite a no-feeding policy, people have continued to feed the flock, encouraging it to concentrate on the campus and continuing the damage concerns."