Turkules the wild turkey’s reign over New Jersey town comes to an end

Wild turkey became a local sensation after it settled in West Orange, 25 miles west of New York City, over the summer

Martha McHardy
Friday 24 November 2023 15:16 GMT
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<p>‘Turkules’ the wild turkey’s reign over a New Jersey town has come to an end</p>

‘Turkules’ the wild turkey’s reign over a New Jersey town has come to an end

A wild turkey’s brief reign over a New Jersey town has now come to an end.

Turkules, who was named after a local man, became a local sensation after it settled in West Orange, 25 miles west of New York City, over the summer.

Since making itself at home, Turkules has been known to cause mile-long traffic jams in the area.

Photos and videos posted online by residents show the wild turkey standing in the middle of a road, preventing cars from passing by, and fearlessly pecking at tyres.

Despite its antics, the bird grew so popular that locals organised a petition to pardon Turkules for his antics, and this week, residents held a “Hometown Hero” event in Turkules’ honor, where businesses donated a portion of profits to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

But the event turned out to be Turkules’ last in the New Jersey town after the state’s department of environmental protection announced that the wild turkey had been captured after a weeks-long effort.

Turkules has now been relocated almost 85 miles away to Wharton state forest, with local residents left devastated.

“I’ll miss him a lot. I’ll miss the daily reports on his sightings, I look forward to getting updates about him every day,” one resident told The Guardian.

“With everything being so tense in the world, political-wise and all that stuff, he came around, and he was the one thing that could just bring the whole town together.

“No one was arguing about politics, no one’s talking about conflicts that are going on: it was just everyone who just wanted to know if this turkey was still around and was still alive.

“He was just our little uniter. The one thing that makes us smile, the thing that everyone could agree on,” they added.

State officials previously attempted to capture Turkules by shooting the bird with a tranquilliser dart. Although the dart struck the bird, it had zero impact, and Turkules continued to walk around the town for weeks with a blue and orange dart hanging from his breast – something locals described as “badass”.

In fact this only added to its celebrity status as locals were awed by its fearless attitude towards traffic and disregard for authority.

Aaron Guikema, the New Jersey state director for the Department of Agriculture’s wildlife services program, told The Guardian Turkules was particularly difficult to capture because he “tended to fly” more than the average wild turkey.

Turkules has been known to cause mile-long traffic jams in the area

According to reports, the famous wild turkey was captured and relocated earlier this year, only to return to the town.

Turkules’ resilience means locals do not think they have seen the last of the bird.

“He is a gangster. He will make his way back. He always does,” one resident said.

Wild turkeys have seen a resurgence across the US, thanks to conservation laws. There are now believed to be around seven million wild turkeys across the country, with an estimated 20,000 in New Jersey.

Typically, around half a dozen wild turkeys are removed from the state each year for interfering with traffic or causing other disruptions.

In 2019, more than two dozen wild turkeys invaded a New Jersey town ahead of Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, in 2021, there were several sightings of turkeys on university campuses across the US, including the University of Minnesota, as well as Boston University and the University of California.

Wild turkeys can be spotted in every state except Alaska.

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