Only strong turkeys survive in New Jersey

We have wild turkeys here in Morris — we see them every once in a while, along the road or at the horticulture garden. They tend to be timid and run away if you approach.

It’s a different story in New Jersey.

Roaming the highways of West Orange is a mighty bird named Turkules, who boldly charges across the road, pursues pedestrians, and has so far proven unstoppable.

Turkules made his official debut early in October at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation on Pleasant Valley Way. Like a bad “why did the chicken cross the road joke,” residents saw him in the street when they were driving in the area. His antics have been immortalized in the New York Times and one resident said he was featured in The Times of India.

People posted pictures of him and captivated residents reported his every movement. One day he was spotted with a dart in his chest from an official capture attempt, and another time he was hit by a car. No one posted any Turkules sightings for a few days, and his fan club worried about his wellbeing. On Tuesday, Oct. 31 he reappeared, much to the delight of many township residents. Although, not everyone is convinced that the turkey spotted on Halloween was Turkules.

He has been creating traffic problems, and many on social media are worried that he will be hit again. Turkules has also charged at a couple of people, so don’t get too close to him.

Officials have posted official warnings.

Please be advised the Township of West Orange is aware of the wild turkey present on Pleasant Valley Way, in the area of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and Daughters of Israel. West Orange Animal Control has been working with New Jersey Fish & Wildlife for the past two weeks to capture and relocate this turkey. It’s crucial that the public refrains from approaching the wild turkey for safety reasons. Wild animals can become stressed or agitated when approached, which can pose risks to both the animal and humans. Feeding the turkey or attempting to remove tranquilizing darts is strongly discouraged. Interfering with the wildlife professionals’ efforts can complicate the situation and potentially harm the turkey. New Jersey Fish and Wildlife authorities are actively working to capture and relocate the turkey. They have been trying to tranquilize the bird, but have encountered some challenges in their efforts so far.

You go, Turkules (he has many names now: Cluck Norris, Gobbles McFeathers, Wingston, or simply Tom). Lead the rebellion. Raise up your armies and storm the citadels of Butterball, Jennie-O, and Perdue. Know this: you have allies among us vegetarian humans.

I, for one, welcome our new turkey overlords. They can’t be worse than the turkeys running the country right now.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Add a parrot-size brain and they will be smart enough to dominate the eology . Fortunately my home region is too cold for them.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Quick, GM them to have proper claws! And get back the fangs. Soon, you will not have problems with coyotes or raccoons anymore…

  3. stuffin says

    I live in NJ; This is a repeating situation here. A year or two ago a flock of turkeys terrorized a senior community just a few miles from where I live, was kinda funny for those not involved. The turkeys had to be relocated.

    As a daily reader of the news, I have noticed over the years there have been a number of incidents (involving rude turkeys in NJ). They have definitely developed a Jersey attitude.

  4. robro says

    We have wild turkeys around us here in Marin county. There’s a big flock with several toms that parade our street now and again. They are not indigenous but were introduced a century ago for hunters. No one hunts them now, of course…too many homes and people. We don’t mind them too much except they are noisy, a bit messy and can do things to the plants in the garden that aren’t appreciated by the family gardener.

    However, they can be aggressive. One of our neighbors was trying to pull into her drive one day and a couple of the toms basically attacked her car.

    And then there’s my favorite story: a friend who lives near us said one of the main streets was blocked because a couple of turkeys were copulating in the middle of the road. Perhaps they had been listening to the Beatles.

    Speaking of turkeys, the WaPo headline on Trumps testimony in New York is amusing: “Trump, on the stand in N.Y. civil fraud trial, gets warning from judge to answer questions without meandering.” Asking Trump not to meander is pointless. The subtext goes on to say that Judge Engoron asked one of Trump’s lawyers: “Mr. Kise, can you control your client? This is not a political rally, this is a courtroom.” Instead of answering the question, Trump was complaining that Engoron always rules against him. Poor baby.

  5. wzrd1 says

    A few years back, we had some trouble with a resident flock of white geese in Delaware County, PA. One gander being exceptionally aggressive and charging motor vehicles and pedestrians. As this was less than 100 meters from an elementary school and there were biting incidents, eventually the geese were relocated.
    The township put up big signs warning not to feed the geese – right next to a small coin operated grain dispenser, which to me was a rather mixed message.
    The gander made the mistake of charging at me, only to realize to its horror that I wasn’t going to retreat. So, it wisely broke off its charge before it could’ve became the guest of honor at our dinner table.
    I’ve long had a special relationship with wild animals, I leave them alone, they need to leave me alone, we’ll get along fine. With only one exception, when it’s mother-in-law season. ;)

    We do get wild turkeys near Harrisburg, they remain fairly shy and reclusive.
    But, I’ve learned that turkeys don’t fly – they beat the air into submission. Damned things sound like a helicopter taking off! Far more thunderous than a mere pheasant.
    But, tranquilizing them is an odd choice. Wildlife managers usually use a projectile net to snare the birds for catch and release programs.
    Still, nice to see them rebounding again, they also nearly became extinct in the wild.

  6. flex says

    We’ve got a couple flocks, they don’t bother us but we are not aggressive toward them either.

    However, my wife was freaked out one day when she looked up at one of the walnut trees at dusk and saw fifteen turkeys 40 feet up, roosting for the night. “How did they get up there!?!”, “They can’t fly!?!”

    The next evening she watched as they ran across the lawn, wings flapping wildly, flinging themselves into the air to get to the lowest branch, about 12 feet up. Then flapping and hopping from branch to branch until they were much higher. Watching these awkward fowls hop, jump, and fumble their way up a tree is guaranteed to bring a smile to the dourest face. It’s almost as much fun to watch them plummet to the ground in the morning.

    Then there was the time the entire flock ended up on the roof of the barn. They walked all along the edge several times wondering why they weren’t able to walk from that ground to the grass which was another ten feet down. That took them a good 20 minutes to figure out.

    But my wife and I are easily amused.

  7. Snidely W says

    Good grief. With all the warnings about “wild animals”, one would half expect that the local emergency rooms would be filling up with people wounded by turkeys. Has any blood been drawn?
    (The only people who might be at any risk are the very thin-skinned elderly, whose skin could be easily torn by a claw scratch).

    We modern humans have such bizarre relationships with natural things, animate and inanimate.

  8. microraptor says

    @12: Actually, a wild turkey can lacerate a healthy adult human quite easily with its spurs.

  9. robro says

    flex @ #11 — In fact one of my first experiences with our local turkey population is that they were up a Monterey pine tree in our backyard about 40-60 feet. Like many folks, I assumed they couldn’t fly at all although an aunt of mine had domestic turkeys that would fly…sort of…around her yard. Not only can they work their way up a tree, they can fly about a 100 feet from the street over the top of our house to the back yard. Amazing to see although not nearly as graceful as the many other birds that visit our yard.

  10. Snidely W says

    @13: My main point, which I apparently poorly articulated, was in regard to how we humans deal with nature. We 100-200+ pound mammals should not be ruled by 15-25 pound birds. Mating season be damned. Wear sensible shoes, and learn how to use them, for crying out loud. They almost always attack from behind, so just pay attention, too. Standing your ground – or whatever you are doing – if attacked with the leaping foot attack, one need only interpose the bottom of one foot to defend yourself.

    I have kept free ranging chickens, including some that were about 20 lbs., so I have some related experience (they attack and fight the same way). Though it seems that wild turkeys can sometimes be a bit more ‘obsessive’ during mating season. They managed to get me few times. Decent abrasions from the claws, and one sore spot, the latter probably from a spur.

    If you google image search for turkey spur injuries one only finds a few hunters injured from not-yet-dead turkeys, and a chicken spur puncture wound. yawn

    So yes, some slight injury potential. But we humans just have to remember our (former) place in it. See my second sentence above.

    Again, where are the injured?

  11. Cyborg says

    One day around the time the first Jurassic Park movie came out, I was driving on a dirt road in Oklahoma heading straight into the sunrise. As I crested a small hill, I saw some ‘Raptors’ running away from me. Between the sunrise, the hill and perspective(?) They looked 6-10 feet tall and just like dinosaurs. (I know they are dinosaurs, but you know what I mean)

  12. wzrd1 says

    The only time humans have actually had problems with turkeys were in cases where the birds had habituated being around people and the idiots fed them. Then, behaviorally the turkeys have simply decided that humans are lower in their social order and behave aggressively toward the humans.
    It’s uncommon, but not unheard of. Usually at campsites and such more than in a suburban neighborhood.
    Oh, they are documented to fly up to a quarter mile, rarely. Largely, they’ll fly up to roost at night, as their night vision is quite poor and many of their predators are nocturnal.
    On the few times I’ve encountered them on the ground, they happily kept their distance and even moved away from me. I’m quite fine with that, they leave me alone, I leave them alone. A hen will shelter chicks she feels are in danger with her body and wings, so obviously one wants to leave them alone as well.

    As for the domestic variety, I’ll be getting a very small bird from the store toward the end of the month. Had an uncle who raised the domestic turkey, as bright as the wild turkey is, the domestic variety is about as dumb as a bag of rocks. I saw one try to eat the ember of a cigarette – six times, dropping it as it was obviously hot, then trying to eat it again and again.

  13. SchreiberBike says

    I wonder what’s happening genetically. Are they becoming habituated to human environments by learning or genetics. I feel like squirrels better understand how cars move than they did when I learned to drive (they do fewer quick reverses, which may help them avoid birds of prey or wolves but often gets them squished by cars), but I have no data.

  14. laurian says

    Turkules had better chill the fck out seeing how Turkey Day is coming and I’m willing to guess it’s open season on him and his ilk.

    I mean when they prey comes to you
    What can you do

  15. magistramarla says

    We see lots of wild turkeys here on the Monterey Peninsula. There are often reports of some aggressive ones attacking people who are walking their dogs. The same thing often happens with deer. We also see recordings posted of mountain lions, bobcats and raccoons visiting decks and patios at night. My cats are never allowed outside!
    A friend of mine started quite a firestorm of interest when he sent a picture of a wild turkey with an arrow piercing it’s chest to a local newspaper. The story went national. I haven’t heard what the final outcome was, but that poor bird was walking around with that arrow all summer.

  16. DanDare says

    Queensland Oz the turkeys love to play dodge on the road. They seem to wait till a car is coming and dash across in front of it.
    There is a pair that have a nest nearby somewhere and they often come into my yard and hassle the cat.

  17. flex says

    @ Steve Morrison, #21,

    My memory is that the line was uttered by Les Nessman.

    Funny story though. My uncle, who was a rock-n-roll disk jockey in the 1960’s and 1970’s claims that episode was loosely based on a real event. According to the story….

    A small radio station in Texas wanted to do a promotional event by providing people with turkeys for Thanksgiving. They planned to give away a couple dozen frozen turkeys. But they wanted to make the news around the city, to make a splash. So they decided to distribute them by dropping them from a helicopter into the parking lot of a supermarket. After all, what could go wrong. These are only frozen turkeys. People buy them every day.

    Or, they could be seen as fifteen pounds of not very aerodynamic, but very, very, solid mass.

    According to the story, when the first turkey was dropped into the crowd below, luckily no one caught it. When it cracked the pavement, the crowd scattered. The remaining frozen turkeys landed on a variety of objects. Some landed on cars, breaking windshields, denting sheet metal and ripping through convertible tops. Some landed on asphalt, instantly creating potholes. One smashed a wooden park bench.

    No one, at least according to the story, was hurt and the radio station paid for all the damage. I’m certain there was a significant amount of inconvenience. Maybe the helicopter pilot was supposed to land, maybe they were supposed to hover closer to the ground and miss-understood the altitude. Maybe the people running the promotion failed basic math.

    But imagine the scene. People on the ground scurrying about, helter-skelter, trying to avoid a bombardment of turkeys. Other people frantically trying to get the attention of those in the helicopter. Someone in the helicopter causally tossing out frozen turkeys, oblivious to what’s going on below. Panic, mayhem, dogs and cats living together, and raining frozen turkeys.

    The story my uncle told could have been entirely made up. But that’s the story I heard, forty years ago, from my uncle who was Rocking Robin on WABX twenty years earlier.

  18. charley says

    @27 Flex
    It was Mr. Carlson who said, “God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

  19. John Morales says

    Given that only strong turkeys survive in New Jersey, the inescapable conclusion is that all living turkeys in New Jersey are strong turkeys.

    A more concise way to express that is that all turkeys in New Jersey are strong.

  20. jrkrideau says

    @ 4 birgerjohansson
    Fortunately my home region is too cold for them.

    Are you sure? I live in tropical South Eastern Ontario, Canada. Temperatures here, before Climate Change really started to hit us were below zero from early December till early March. Without pulling Environment Canada data my guess would be normal nighttime temperatures would be between -10 and -15 with the occasional cold snap to -30 and once every few years -40. I remember cycling in Ottawa one morning with a morning temperature of ~ -45. Damn bicycle started to freeze up.

    Since they were recently (40 years ago) reintroduced, we see now turkey flocks of 40-60.

    Maniboba has a colder climate than my balmy part of the country: Manitoba Turkeys

    Your only hope is the longer winter nights but I’d start researching recipes.

  21. Silentbob says

    (Actually, I have to revise that because it sounds dismissive. Mano is a retired professor of physics.)

  22. lochaber says

    SF Bay Area, and I see some turkeys frequently on my commute and at my work location, and they might be the dumbest vertebrates I’ve ever observed. Amusing to observe, but I don’t think much is going on upstairs. They will absolutely lock up intersections when they wander into traffic – the cars slow down because the (non-asshole) car drivers don’t want to run over an animal. because the cars are moving so slow, the turkeys ignore it, and continue to mill about in the middle of the road, or maybe fluff up and peck at their reflection in the nearest car.

    I’ll go full-speed on my bicycle (maybe all of 20 mph? I dunno, I don’t have a bike computer or whatever), and the will ignore me until I’m about ~4-6 ft away from them, and then they will all-out panic, sprinting, and maybe even flapping their wings to get all of the ~8″ out of the way (bicycle), before settling down and going back to eating gravel or whatever.

    They desperately need some predators, but I can’t complain too much, because the figure highly in my lazy SHTF plan – I’ll eat them and fennel and pigeons, and move north when I get sick of turkeys, fennel, and pigeons…

  23. flex says

    @28, Charley,

    Thank you, my memory must be faulty. My apologies to Steve Morrison for suggesting he was incorrect.

  24. chuckonpiggott says

    DC had a turkey like that last year. He lived along a biking trail near the Anacostia river and would routinely attack joggers and bicyclists. US Park Police even put out warnings. Have not seen any stories about him this fall.

  25. bkrapcha says

    I live in the area and can attest to the YOLO attitude of NJ wild turkeys. Nothing at all like the flighty ones I encountered in Wisconsin.