Much to the chagrin of many a country mouse, wild turkeys inhabiting several towns in the New York City borough of Staten Island have been freaking out the community’s more “cosmopolitan” population. Though the imagination can’t help but run away with itself over something this goofy, its no laughing matter for the city’s government as America’s unofficial national bird has been recently causing major headaches for a number of densely populated, heavily-voting neighborhoods. These birds play “chicken” (somewhat appropriately) with traffic, tear up and crap all over lawns and roost on cars and houses. And they’ve reportedly adopted a New York attitude as well, standing their ground aggressively when implored to move, especially when traveling in larger numbers.
The turkeys themselves are not a recent addition either. Though the native population died out around the turn of the century, a little over a decade ago a resident thought it was a good idea to release “a couple of turkeys”. These birds made use of the area’s old-growth trees and natural wetlands and their numbers and concentration in the South Beach section of Staten Island have been increasing ever since. Today, this street gang cockily struts 100 strong and terrorizes these idyllic suburbs unchecked.
Residents report being trapped in their cars or boxed out of their homes. The words “filthy” and “horrible” usually accompany a locals’ description of these often revered game bird. And those who are more “proactive” risk fines. Earlier this year, a man from Dongan Hills became so frustrated by the turkeys roosting on his block that he fired bottle rockets at them. He was promptly arrested for attempted cruelty to wildlife. Most, people just spray the birds with a garden hose.
City law protects the wild turkeys from hunters (and anyone who would fire bottle rockets at them) so the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is apparently considering taking steps to manage the birds. The DEC has sent out surveys to people in the area to see what they think about the issue and these surveys have prompted some generous Islanders to offer up land to relocate the birds. Environmental experts have resoundingly rejected these options. Officials are sure the birds have become domesticated and will not do well in the wild.
The working plan is somehow even more convoluted than turkeys in New York City. A few days before Thanksgiving, City Councilman James Oddo outlined a plan that would use OvoControl-P (pending NY State approval), a drug that causes bird eggs not to hatch and is currently in use in Los Angeles, and vegetable oil to coat the turkey’s eggs and end their reign on Staten Island once again. Employees with the DEC will begin finding nests and coating the eggs during the March breeding season.