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'Surprise' Size of Rescued S.I. Turkey Flock Prompts $10K Fundraiser

By Nicholas Rizzi | November 17, 2015 2:16pm
 The And-Hof Animal Sanctuary — which took in 93 Staten Island turkeys last year — is raising $10,000 to help house the next batch.
The And-Hof Animal Sanctuary — which took in 93 Staten Island turkeys last year — is raising $10,000 to help house the next batch.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

STATEN ISLAND — An upstate animal sanctuary is scrambling to raise $10,000 after agreeing to take Staten Island's turkeys — without realizing how many there were.

Kurt Andernach, who owns the 60-acre And-Hof Animal Sanctuary in Catskill, N.Y., agreed to take a flock that lives on the grounds of the South Beach Psychiatric Center.

But a misunderstanding led Andernach to think there'd be a dozen birds — not the 100 that are winging their way to him. He agreed to take them without realizing how many were still on Staten Island, he said.

"It's a surprise for us, of course, a financial burden we did not really expect," said Andernach who discovered the flock's real size earlier this month.

"With the first turkeys we had quite a lot of time, now we have no time."

The state Office of Mental Health said they issued a permit this month for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to move up to 100 turkeys from the psychiatric center to And-Hof starting in December.

The Department of Environmental Conservation estimates about 50 turkeys will remain on the grounds after the relocation, with potentially more in the surrounding communities.

While Andernach said he has plenty of space, the sanctuary needs help to clear three to four acres and buy materials to build fences and a coop.

"We love doing it and will do whatever it takes to make the birds happy, it just kind of came out of the blue," he said.

Andernach said his group is accepting donations from people who want to help the Staten Island birds and is working on setting up an online fundraiser to help get the costs to prepare the land.

Last year, the state started a controversial cull of the turkey because staff complained of health concerns caused by their droppings, as well as aggressive behavior and safety issues from them walking in roads.

But after outcry from residents and elected officials, the state agreed to relocate the hybrid flock — a mixture of domestic and wild turkeys. At that time, Andernach took in 93 birds.

To make room for them, he had to clear land and put up fencing. Now he has to do it all over again because he simply can't add that many birds to the existing space, he said.

"I can't just add more flocks to it," he said. "That could potentially turn into a bloodbath." 

Andernach said the birds he has already taken in are almost like pets and get along well with the chickens and goats that also live on the sanctuary.

"They are such wonderful animals and they are such a joy," he said. "One of them sometimes even sits on my shoulder, especially when I bring them fresh bread."

Despite the challenges, Andernach said he's happy to be able to save the turkeys.

"If their lives are in danger on Staten Island, bring them up here," Andernach said. "There's plenty of room."