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Turkey Cull on Staten Island Gobbles Up $16K

By Nicholas Rizzi | December 9, 2013 7:40am
 The state's Office of Mental Health has nearly $16,000 budgeted for the roundup and slaughter of turkeys on Staten Island. So far, they've spent $11,994.
The state's Office of Mental Health has nearly $16,000 budgeted for the roundup and slaughter of turkeys on Staten Island. So far, they've spent $11,994.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

OCEAN BREEZE — The Staten Island turkeys are gobbling green.

The controversial cull of the flock at the South Beach Psychiatric Center has cost nearly $16,000, with the tab being picked up by the state's Office of Mental Health, according to the contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So far, OMH has processed three invoices from the USDA, which totaled $11,994.62, said Ben Rosen, a spokesman for the agency.

The final cost is expected to be $15,998, according to the contract, which was posted online by GooseWatch NYC.

David Karopkin, founder of GooseWatch NYC, who has been fighting to save the birds, criticized the cost.

"I cannot believe that they spent $16,000 to kill 160 turkeys, and there's still plenty of turkeys down there," he said. "It accomplished nothing."

The cull was put into place to reduce the population of birds "to as near zero as possible," according to the contract. But Karopkin said an estimated flock of 80 still live on the hospital grounds, with more in the surrounding neighborhood.

Karopkin, who raised $20,000 to build an enclosure in an upstate animal sanctuary to rescue 28 of the birds, said the budgeted money could have been used to relocate the rest.

"I remain convinced alternatives are viable and should be pursued, especially with the colossal cost that accomplished nothing," he said. "With another $20,000, we could've doubled the size of the enclosure and taken all the turkeys."

The majority of the budgeted money was set for travel and staffing costs. The contract required a supervisor with two field staff members to be on the grounds for the collection.

The contract started in June, and the USDA made the first roundup of roughly 80 turkeys in August. The meat from the turkey will be given out to local food pantries if it's deemed safe to eat, the USDA said.

The contract also detailed how the birds would be collected.  Coral traps, bow nets, drop nets, an air cannon and an immobilizing agent would be used, it said.

The cull started after staff at the psychiatric center complained of the turkey's aggressive behavior, health concerns and traffic issues from birds crossing the street.

"In light of concerns and complaints about unsanitary conditions, health risks and attacks on patients, employees and visitors associated with various bird species at South Beach Psychiatric Center, the Office of Mental Health sought and received assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture, which removed nuisance turkeys from the grounds," Rosen said in a statement.

According to the contract, the Department of Environmental Conservation tried several other methods throughout the years to curb the turkey population, including putting up signs telling residents not to feed them.

But none helped. The USDA also ruled out relocating the birds because the flock was a hybrid — a mix of domestic and wild turkeys.

The contract expired on Oct. 31, but it was extended until Dec. 31, Rosen said.

USDA OMH Contract Turkeys 2013 2014-00518 by GooseWatchNYC