STATEN ISLAND, NY — An upcoming meeting between city and state agencies and local elected officials has one goal: to devise a plan to deal with “harmful” wildlife on Staten Island.
And one of the main topics of discussion will be the borough’s wild turkeys.
Mid-Island Councilman David Carr, Borough Chairman Vito Fossella, the city’s Parks Department, and state and city Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials meet meet this month to come up with a game plan on how to reduce the number of deer, lanterns and turkeys that call the town home.
At first, the borough turkeys were cute; it was even comical when a chevron of turkeys blocked traffic as a mother bird and her babies crossed the road.
But the cuteness quickly wore off for residents of Staten Island, who had to deal with scratches on their cars, pooping all over their properties, and aggressive not-so-cute poultry foraging and guarding. of their young.
Some were found dead on the sidewalk in other high-traffic areas.
An infamous turkey, later named Matilda, took up residence outside the home of Dongan Hills resident Richard Gambarella and laid 18 eggs. The bird became very overprotective of them and aggressive towards Gambardella, he said.
Simply put: the Staten Islanders have had enough of the turkeys.
Now, it’s going to take a slew of creative solutions — and government approval — to rid the borough of the number of turkeys that call Staten Island home.
These solutions to reduce and/or contain the borough’s turkey population are the focus of the upcoming “wildlife summit,” Carr said. With different agencies and elected officials in one room, he said he hoped good ideas would be brought to the table.
“It’s not as easy to fix as it could have been in the past,” Carr told Advance/SILive.com.
RELOCATION TO TURKEY IS NO LONGER AN OPTION
Billed as a “stepping stone agreement,” the state Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Staten Island University Hospital began in 2014 to capture and relocate poultry to the And-Hoff shrine in the Catskills.
In 2018, the sanctuary had more than 150 borough poultry, but locals say it barely made a dent in the population. The turkeys left behind continued to breed and create dangerous, frustrating and disgusting situations for the Staten Islanders.
The last relocation attempt in October 2019 was put on hold because the state was concerned the animal sanctuary could not keep the turkeys on its property and said it would have to set up a pen or clip the wings of the turkeys every year so that ‘they can’t fly. . The sanctuary would need to expand the area by 12 acres to add room for additional turkeys – there were over 200 at this point.
The state and city have since severed ties with the And-Hoff Shrine.
When relocation efforts were underway, the turkeys were primarily in the Mid-Island portion of the borough, with a heavy concentration around Staten Island University Hospital and occasional stragglers found on the north or south shores.
The turkey population has since exploded, with turkeys appearing everywhere from Tottenville to Mariners Harbor and everywhere in between, making any relocation or population control efforts even more difficult, Carr said.
“It was never a one-size-fits-all solution,” he said. “Other efforts were to locate the eggs to prevent the birth of a new generation of turkeys in order to control the population and let the population decline through attrition. But this was not successful as it can be very difficult to locate eggs.
“THEY DON’T BELONG HERE”
Like his predecessor, former councilman Steven Matteo, Carr thought relocation made the most sense; he removed existing Staten Island turkeys as well as breeding turkeys.
“Now I think we’ve come to a point where we need multiple approaches: tackling the existing population, tackling reproductive capacity and the reproductive process. And those are the things that I want to put on the table with DEC and the other agencies,” he said.
“Because the mantra of ‘They’re now part of the borough’s wildlife scene and we have to learn to adapt to it,’ I don’t think that’s the right path here,” he continued.
The state previously told Advance/SILive.com that it does not believe capturing and transporting wildlife is a viable long-term solution. Strategies, such as eliminating attractants like food sources and other sustainable solutions, are best for controlling pest wildlife.
“DEC continues to work with New York City, borough officials and affected communities to help develop a turkey management plan to address the growing population of feral turkeys established on Staten Island,” said said DEC, adding that while it will work with elected officials, ultimately local municipalities are responsible for addressing nuisance wildlife issues.
Says Carr: “It’s not a question of whether or not we will develop solutions, the question is what the state will allow us to do because almost nothing can be done with wildlife in this state without approval. “
“These turkeys aren’t native to the borough and they don’t belong in our natural ecosystem here, so there’s definitely a reason to try to manage the population,” he continued.
HOW DID THEY COME HERE?
The borough’s turkeys were first reported as a problem in the late 1990s. File photos from the Staten Island Advance show photos of turkeys congregating in 1996 for the first time.
But poultry did not reach problematic levels until a few years later; in 1999, a local resident released her nine pet birds at the nearby South Beach Psychiatric Center.
In 2011, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said there were about 100 turkeys living in the borough. However, locals begged to disagree, calling the agency’s tally conservative and assuming there were at least hundreds of poultry at the time.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE FOR TURKEY
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