As It Happens

Behold Turkules, the turkey who charmed and terrorized a New Jersey town for months

A wild turkey has been caught and relocated to the wilderness after months of evading capture and gaining notoriety in West Orange, N.J.

After evading capture for months, Turkules has been caught and relocated in time for U.S. Thanksgiving

A large wild turkey walks by some flower beds with a tranquillizer dart sticking out of his chest.
Turkules the wild turkey roams a garden in West Orange, N.J., with a tranquillzer dart sticking out of his chest, seemingly having no effect. (Submitted by Gia Garcia)

For the longest time, it seemed as though nothing could stop Turkules the turkey.

The wild fowl roamed the streets of West Orange, N.J., for months, gaining both fame and notoriety as it stopped traffic, pecked tires, chased residents and evaded state officials' many attempts to capture him.

When he was hit by a car, he walked away "unscathed," according to a statement by the West Orange Township. When an officer shot him with a tranquilizer gun, he appeared unaffected and "continued to wear the dart defiantly."

"Picture seeing this turkey. He's, like, magnificent. Like, he's huge. And there's a tranq dart sticking out of him, and he's just walking around with it," Gia Garcia, a West Orange resident and Turkules superfan, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.

"Like the Terminator. Like nothing happened at all."

WATCH | A failed attempt to catch Turkules:

Watch Turkules — the ungovernable New Jersey turkey — evade capture

3 months ago
Duration 0:15
A wild turkey has been caught and relocated to the wilderness after months of both charming and terrorizing the residents of West Orange, N.J. Here, a motorist captures one of the state's several failed attempts to catch the bird, known locally as Turkules.

But the ungovernable bird's local hijinks have come to an end. The municipality issued a statement on Wednesday informing residents that Turkules has been caught, pardoned by the mayor for his alleged crimes, and relocated to an "undisclosed location" out of town.

"Had it not been for the number of complaints the township had received with regard to Turkules's aggressive behaviour concerning pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists, and motorists, township officials would have been content to allow Turkules to remain as long as he wanted," the statement reads.

'Oh my God, he's beautiful'

It's not clear exactly when Turkules arrived in West Orange, but residents have been reporting sightings of him since at least the summer, according to the Guardian newspaper.

While he was known to harass passersby, his scrappy personality soon turned him into a local celebrity. He was profiled in the New York Times. Turkules has his own Facebook page. And a petition calling on the city to guarantee his protection and pardon his crimes garnered more than 500 signatures.

He picked up several local nicknames, including "Cluck Norris" and "Gobbles McFeathers," but Turkules — which rhymes with Hercules — is the one that really stuck. 

"It's like seeing a celebrity," resident Ben Maimin told the Times. "It's like our version of Taylor Swift coming to town."

A wild turkey perched in a garden next to a large lawn sign that reads: 'Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation."
Turkules was particularly fond of the area around the Kessler Institute in West Orange. (Submitted bu Gia Garcia)

Garcia says she had the pleasure of making the turkey's acquaintance for the first time about three weeks ago.

"Everyone wants to catch a sighting of him," she said. "And then you see him and you're like, 'Oh my God, he's beautiful.'"

He was such a sight to behold, it was easy to forgive him for any chaos he was wreaking upon the town, she said.

"In traffic, he would literally walk up to your window and you could roll it down and you'd say, 'Turkules, sweetie, we have to get home. Like, you gotta get out of the road,'" she said. "And he would, like, stare at you and just be like, 'I know, but I'm walking the road right now, so can you just wait?'"

Images of cookies, a sweatshirt and a Christmas tree ornament with cartoon turkeys.
Local businesses made merchandise to celebrate Turkules, a celebrity wild turkey, to raise money for charity. (Submitted by Gia Garcia)

Before his sudden departure, Garcia — who owns the Willow and Olivia dessert cafe — organized a "Hometown Hero" event in honour of Turkules. 

Local businesses sold Turkules-related merchandise, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Wildlife Conservation Society, she said. 

Now, like other Turkules fans, she finds herself mourning his loss.

"I miss his precocious behaviour for sure. And just his spunk," she said. "I like to think of him as a two- or three-year-old toddler in a bird body. That's how headstrong is."

Asked what she was cooking for American Thanksgiving this year, she said: "I plead the fifth."

Interview with Gia Garcia produced by Kate Swoger

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

Get the CBC Radio newsletter. We'll send you a weekly roundup of the best CBC Radio programming every Friday.

...

The next issue of Radio One newsletter will soon be in your inbox.

Discover all CBC newsletters in the Subscription Centre.opens new window

now