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Turkeys invade Staten Island

By Jesse Solomon, CNN
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Turkeys make a mess in Staten Island
  • A private citizen released nine turkeys in 2000
  • Since then, they've multiplied ten-fold
  • Some residents feed their feathered friends
  • For others, the birds are a fowl nuisance

New York (CNN) -- Thanksgiving may be two weeks away, but every day is turkey day for a quiet section of New York City's Staten Island.

While some residents embrace the roughly 100 turkeys that live year around in the Ocean Breeze neighborhood on the island's southern shore, others find them a nuisance.

"It's a controversy because some people are upset by them and others love them," says Suzanne Mattei, regional director of the New York Department of Conservation in Staten Island.

Mattei said the turkeys first started showing up in 2000 after nine birds were released by a private citizen. Since then, they've multiplied -- ten-fold.

"They are not indigenous" she said. "They have feathering that indicate they have been mixed with domestic turkeys."

Many residents feed their feathered friends, keeping them healthy and able to reproduce.

"These turkeys are fat and they are very well fed; they are not living on roots and nuts," Mattei said.

But for Mike Budano, the birds are a fowl annoyance, as he is constantly shooing them off his front lawn.

"My grandchildren love them, but I just don't want them on the property making a mess," Mike Budano said.

To scare turkeys off their property, residents are encouraged by authorities to splash the birds with water from a hose.

The turkeys also have created some traffic headaches.

"A turkey flew in and hit my windshield and it kind of bounced off my car," said Erika Renik, who works at a neighborhood hospital.

The Department of Conservation plans to take a "turkey attitude" survey to assess how residents feel about the birds. While the turkeys have not posed any public safety risk, Mattei says the "Thanksgiving solution" is never off the table.

In that situation, the turkeys would be harvested and, if their meat is deemed safe, brought to a local food kitchen. But Mattei doubts that scenario would play out by this Thanksgiving.

"That's the challenge of wildlife in an urban setting," she said.