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27 Wild Turkeys Residents Griped About Have Been Relocated Upstate

By Nicholas Rizzi | December 9, 2014 2:01pm
 The first of up to 100 Staten Island turkeys to be relocated were collected on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014 and brought to the And-Hof Animals sanctuary in Catskill, NY.
The first of up to 100 Staten Island turkeys to be relocated were collected on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014 and brought to the And-Hof Animals sanctuary in Catskill, NY.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

OCEAN BREEZE — More than two-dozen wild turkeys were moved from Staten Island to an upstate animal sanctuary on Monday, after locals complained that they were a nuisance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture collected 27 of the birds from the grounds of the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Monday and transported them to their new home at the And-Hof Animals sanctuary in Catskill, N.Y.

The birds are among the approximately 100 that will be relocated to And-Hof this month, after they won a last-minute reprieve from the USDA's plan to kill them. The wild turkeys had drawn complaints that they were aggressive and posed a health hazard, prompting the government to plan a cull.

"They really didn't have a very bright future," said Kurt Andernach, 51, who agreed to house the flock to his 60-acre sanctuary. "They are a concern on Staten Island and there were not very many alternatives."

The relocation comes after several politicians issued a public plea in April to move the flock rather than cull it, which Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis previously said took longer than expected to plan.

"Hopefully it will at least relieve the problem a while," she said.

Government officials worked with The Humane Society to help find a home for the birds and organize their relocation to And-Hof.

“The [Human Society] applauds the state Office of Mental Health, the New York State DEC and the USDA for working with us to find a humane solution,” Brian Shapiro, New York State director for The Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

“We look forward to assisting these agencies with the next group of turkeys heading upstate and putting in place a long-term solution for the hospital grounds.”

To get approval to house the flock, Andernach had to spend nearly $12,000 to build fencing and a shelter for the birds. Some of the funds came from donations, but Andernach, who also works as an architectural designer, had to pay out of pocket to build the shelter.

"There is no better cause in life," he said. "I do anything for animals."

Last year, the USDA started a controversial $16,000 cull on the hybrid flock — a mix of domestic and wild turkeys — that called the psychiatric center home for years.

It started after staff complained about the turkeys' aggressive behavior, health concerns over their droppings and traffic issues when they crossed the street.

Residents and elected officials protested the cull, which was eventually canceled, and 28 turkeys were sent to an animal sanctuary upstate last year.

Even though the 27 turkeys that just arrived at And-Hof had only been there a day, Andernach said Tuesday that he was surprised how well the birds took to their move out of the city.

"I expected them to be very panicky, but they actually, right from the get-go, were very calm for the most part," he said. "I keep checking on them regularly and they're just perching on their perches or along their roosts."