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Pardoned Staten Island Turkeys Enjoy Thanksgiving Upstate

By Nicholas Rizzi | November 28, 2013 9:32am
 The turkeys have adjusted well to the move upstate, the director of the sanctuary said.
Staten Island Turkeys
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STATEN ISLAND — The pardoned turkeys of Staten Island are enjoying Thanksgiving upstate — though the future for their clan still in the city remains uncertain.

The 28 birds re-located to the countryside have made new friends with chickens, goats and sheep at their new home at Catskills Animal Sanctuary (CAS), said director Kathy Stevens.

"They don't want to go anywhere, they're like house pets," Stevens said. "They have claimed Catskill Animal Sanctuary as their home."

The birds were pardoned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture during its controversial cull of a flock living on the grounds of the South Beach Psychiatric Center, and sent to the upstate refuge.

Animal rights activists thought the re-location meant the cull was called off, but the sanctuary was quickly filled and the USDA made another cull a month later

Stevens said she hopes that will be the last.

"I'm hoping there could be a positive outcome for lots more turkeys," Stevens said.

The Department of Environmental Conservation said that the turkeys could not be relocated unless they were put in an enclosed space — which cost $20,000 to build at CAS — because the turkeys in the flock were hybrids or wild and domestic birds.

However, Stevens said in the weeks she'd gotten to know the Staten Island flock, they look and act like wild turkeys.

"In behavior and even in appearance, they act and look much more like wild turkeys," she said. "We were shocked when we saw them."

One example Stevens said was that the birds easily cleared the 11-foot fence built to enclose them. She said a domestic bird could barely fly over a six-foot fence.

While she might be open to take more, Stevens said she wants the DEC to DNA test the birds to find out if they're really hybrids. If they're found to be wild, they'd be easier to re-locate.

"It would be wonderful if it could be determined that they could live in a more open environment," she said. "We have several people willing to adopt who have just big, big properties who would do what they could to keep them fed and safe."

And while one of the reasons cited for the cull was the aggressiveness of the turkeys, Stevens said they've been nothing but gentle so far.

"There's not a single aggressive turkey," she said.