Neighbors enjoyed engaging with the docile bird, but worried he might die in the roadway. Funny Farm owner Laurie Zaleski says Glenny will have freedom, food, and safety on her property.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 27, 2020
One of Haddon Heights’ most popular residents has moved out of town—or rather, was moved out of town.
“Glenny” the wild turkey, named for the Glenview Avenue Elementary School where he first rose to local stardom, was picked up by conservationist Laurie Zaleski on Sunday.
Zaleski relocated him to her Mays Landing animal rescue, The Funny Farm, where she said he’ll be well fed and free to roam.
By all accounts, Glenny recently had claimed as his territory a busy stretch of the Black Horse Pike, and was drawing concern for his propensity to chase delivery vehicles, wander into the roadway, and tie up traffic.
Zaleski was called in by a borough resident who feared their beloved mascot would meet an untimely end. On Sunday morning, she tailed him to a yard on South Park Drive.
“Next thing you know, the girl that lives there started walking up the steps, and she said, ‘Oh, that’s Glenny,’” Zaleski said. “I said, ‘How do you feel about him coming to a rescue?’”
A little before 8 a.m., Zaleski had Glenny in hand. As of Sunday afternoon, he was bunking with some chickens in a temporary holding pen at the Funny Farm. Glenny’s arrival drew the interest of some of its other resident turkeys, including Ben, Jerry, and Turk Turk, a hen that Zaleski said had been abandoned by her flock.
She estimates that more than 600 different species of animals—“dogs, cats, horses, cows, donkeys, alpacas, a skunk, chickens, ducks, geese, swans, peacocks, guinea hens”—roam her 15-acre grounds, coming and going as they please.
“We are the type of place where everything is loose,” Zaleski said. “Our gates are open all day, and [the animals] don’t leave. They get fed here. They’re not getting chased here; they’re protected from other predators.”
Turkeys frequently run afoul of drivers because they’ll react to the sight of their own reflections in a vehicle wheel or door, or they’ll choose to roost on a car, Zaleski said.
Visitors to the Funny Farm are asked to sign waivers because their vehicles might sustain animal damage from such behavior.
“All my cars have turkey scratches, or they have horse bites,” she said.
Zaleski suspects that Glenny’s fascination with cars and busy roads may be the result of his attachment to people.
She suspected that he may have been ostracized from his flock, but other than being underweight, seems in fine health.
Zaleski is aware that her rehoming of the bird has drawn mixed reviews, but believes she can offer him a better situation than what he might have encountered in Haddon Heights. The Funny Farm entertains visitors most Tuesdays and Sundays, and Zaleski has also promised to make February 2, “Glenny Day” at the property. She never charges admission.
“I’ll let him loose if they want, but Glenny was going to get hit there,” Zaleski said. “He’ll be able to be visited, but if he decides to leave, he can fly away and leave if he wants.”
To Katrina Wylie, who works at a medical equipment supplier in Haddon Heights, Glenny’s relocation is the best possible outcome.
The bird was a frequent presence near her office, and as good as he was with people, she feared that his territorial behavior—which included chasing after delivery trucks and strutting into the Black Horse Pike—might get him killed.
“It was actually pretty stressful for me to be working, and then hear the car horns and not know what was coming next,” Wylie said. “You wouldn’t believe how many people stopped to shoo him off the pike, day after day.
“[Glenny] likes to be around people,” she said.
“He listens when you talk to him, and seems to be trying to understand.
“I’ve always found him to be very sweet and gentle,” Wylie said.
“He just seems to have bonded with people and cars.”
Jamie Davidson, who established the 1,100-member Haddon Heights Turkey Talk Facebook page in September, said that Glenny inexplicably captured the imagination of the small town in a short amount of time.
He became a community fixture that residents enjoyed casting in various narratives, and a popular photo subject.
“We know who Glenny is now because he has his own personality,” Davidson said. “He seems a little more outgoing; people-oriented, quirky.
“After a while, because he became familiar, it was just his antics,” she said. “When you would pick your kids up at school, he was with the crossing guard. He was a household name.”
Chatter on the page revealed that Glenny’s behavior was changing, however. He’d gone from circulating among a group of hens near the school and the park to fixating more on vehicles and patrolling the busy Black Horse Pike.
“To me, he seemed like he was off a little bit,” Davidson said, “and then the more you read, they say that turkeys have different personalities. We all talk as if we have a clue what he’s actually thinking.”
The turkey was so frequently in the roadway that Haddon Heights police had begun to direct traffic around him. If that wasn’t evidence enough of the town reaching peak Glenny, wild turkeys were an agenda item on the borough government caucus meeting only a week ago.
After word spread that Glenny had been relocated, reaction was divided, Davidson said.
“Half the people think he should be moved, and the other half don’t mind watching wildlife die,” she said.
“I vacillate between both sides.
“On one hand, it’s really nice that he’s not dancing in the middle of traffic,” Davidson said.
“On the other hand, I actually feel bad because people personalize him like a mascot.
“Why didn’t we just try a lesser thing first?” she said. “It’s just, all of a sudden, one day, he’s gone.
“I don’t think that anyone’s ever going to settle on what they thought was best,” Davidson said.
There’s little in the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife policy on relocating wild animals to suggest that Glenny’s rehoming was out of order. Turkeys don’t migrate or fly, and he wasn’t a juvenile unable to fend for himself.
Zaleski said that Glenny wasn’t injured or visibly ill, but his behavior seemed to indicate that he was likely living on his own. In the complex social world of turkeys, that could be seasonal behavior or evidence of his having been expelled from the flock, according to turkey blogger Brian Lovett.
Pictures seem to indicate that Glenny was a “jake,” or a young turkey. Lovett argues that these birds are often split off from the flock in winter for a number of potential reasons:
Why do jakes leave family flocks in late fall and associate only with their own kind? I think jakes outgrow their mothers and become aggressive, noisy and reckless, which makes them increasingly less compatible with their brood hen. Their reckless behavior endangers themselves and also the hens, and by early winter, jakes split from brood flocks, probably by mutual consent.
Leaving the surveillance of the brood hen probably reduces the survival rate of young males, but that doesn’t matter because jakes are expendable compared to young hens. Every hen can reproduce if she lives to be 1 year old, but only a few dominant adult gobblers will father broods, and only a few jakes need to survive each year to fill that need. That is reason enough for nature to let the jakes go it alone and not jeopardize the survival of young hens.
Ultimately, Davidson said she’d rather that Glenny were safe and well cared for than at risk of becoming roadkill or a poaching victim.
But she and many of her neighbors will miss his presence.
“This was supposed to be funny,” she said. “There’s a vacancy now; we’re not going to see him do his antics.
“[But] when I saw the picture of where he went, I was relieved,” Davidson said.
In the end, she’ll remember that one plucky bird attracted the attention of 1,100 humans with his occasionally harrowing, often amusing, always colorful behavior.
“The numbers were just crazy,” Davidson said. “Who is following a turkey page? Why are we so ridiculous? I think it was just fun.”
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