Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Split Rock Traffic Turkey

Update March 18, 2015: The Split Rock Turkey was reported hit by a car some time in the past week. She had wandered south along Bridgeport Avenue near Dutchess and the Town of Trumbull.  Her survival through the long hard winter while living in the middle of Bridgeport Avenue and Commerce Drive was remarkable.
Just having a little fun with this one... (photo from 1/25/2015)
Disregard the traffic lights - you can go when she lets you.
A lone turkey hen has taken over the busy corner of Bridgeport Avenue and Commerce Drive, also known as "Split Rock." If you live or work in Shelton, you've probably seen her. She struts back and forth across the intersection, day and night, acting like she's a traffic cop. She doesn't appear to be crossing the road so much as patrolling it. Or maybe she's just hungry and confused, but I get a feeling she owns that intersection. 

Queen of the Corner
I first heard about this Tragically Tamed Turkey shortly before Thanksgiving and wondered if anyone would try and catch her for their holiday table setting. No one did, but someone did grab a similar urban turkey in Bridgeport that people had been feeding (and taming), making the front page of the CT Post ("A Murder Most Fowl"). It was so tame that the culprits were reportedly able to chase it down by foot and snap its neck, something a person could never do to a truly wild turkey.  Wild turkey are very fast, very wary, and highly intelligent (also, they can fly). 
Drivers watch this girl with concern on their faces
It's a testament to the general good will of people that this bird continues to stroll about one of the busiest intersections in Shelton. Wildlife in traffic has an amazing ability to make people smile. They can be driving around absorbed in the tasks of their hectic day, rushing to get someplace, and all the sudden a turkey or a family of geese or whatever goes into the road and everyone stops what they're doing and patiently waits for them to pass. Next time this happens, take a look at the faces of the people in the cars.  Most of them will be smiling. In this particular case, however, people seem more alarmed and concerned. How is this bird still alive? What if someone hits her? What if she causes a car accident? A few people actually honked their horns at her. 

"A fed animal is a dead animal." Poor girl probably isn't long for this world.
She doesn't appear aggressive towards cars or people, which can reportedly happen on occasion. Turkey have a strict pecking order, and sometimes a tamed bird will start thinking people are part of this pecking order and act accordingly. If they sense a person is high in the pecking order they will defer, but if the person seems weak, then it's time for the turkey to establish dominance.  She's certainly not afraid of people, though, or cars. She walked up to within twenty feet of me.

Now we know what the "PLUS" stands for. 
How did she get this way?  I'm sure she is being fed by well-intentioned people who think they are doing a good deed. It might be in the form of bird feeders (there are condos nearby) or people may be throwing out bread and corn and scraps, quite possibly people are even throwing food out at her from their cars. She may also be finding garbage and food-litter from the restaurants.  Either way, the direct result is a bird that is dangerously tame.  Not only is she a hazard to herself, but she might cause a car accident and people could get hurt.  Try not to cringe while watching this video of her in traffic:

"A fed animal is a dead animal."   Please, everyone, respect wildlife by not feeding the animals!  Here's a great webpage about "Preventing Conflicts with Wild Turkeys."

UPDATE 12/10/2014:  This blog post was forwarded to the CT DEEP, with the following response from their Turkey Program biologist (many thanks to the DEEP for their response):  In Connecticut, we have a population of over 30,000 wild turkeys statewide. From time to time I receive reports of wild turkeys in urban areas that are creating problems. These situations are often created by well-meaning people who feed the turkeys. The take home message to all is DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE. The woodlands of Connecticut have ample food available to all wildlife species. In the case of wild turkeys, it is particularly important not to feed the birds because when fed in a confined area there exists an enhanced chance of disease being passed from bird to bird and, at times, the turkeys may become aggressive towards people. Let wildlife remain wild and do not make them into pets.

UPDATE 12/28/2014: She still lives!  I am working on a patch design for Shelton Clean Sweep 2015 based on one of the pictures above: