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Turkules: The Turkey Who Enchanted West Orange

West+Oranges+favorite+turkey+prances+around+despite+being+hit+by+a+dart.
Jill Weiss
West Orange’s favorite turkey prances around despite being hit by a dart.

WEST ORANGE, NJ – A quick search on West Orange’s website will find that Mayor Susan McCarthy has only released two statements: One about testing results and the other about a turkey. You guessed it, West Orange has had a turkey problem since early October, and while authorities have been scrambling to put out statements and contain the situation, the citizens of West Orange have been obsessed with our new turkey friend.

Back on October 4th, posts started to circulate on local Facebook feeds describing a “dancing turkey” blocking traffic. People who saw the turkey said that it “won’t move” and started a traffic jam “near the golf course going toward Northfield”.

Nearly a month after the original post on October 23rd, the West Orange Department of Health & Welfare confirmed that they were aware of the turkey in a report stating, “Please be advised the Township of West Orange is aware of the wild turkey present on Pleasant Valley Way, in the area of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and Daughters of Israel. West Orange Animal Control has been working with New Jersey Fish & Wildlife for the past two weeks to capture and relocate this turkey.” However, the report might have come too late with the community’s newfound obsession with the turkey.

Around three days before the report was released, posts started to pop up calling the turkey “spunky” and even saying the Kessler “employee morale hinges on this turkey’s existence”. Yet the posts of townspeople adoring the turkey didn’t end there as West Orange happily named him Turkules and a Facebook account posing as Turkules popped up.

The Turkules account added to the public’s admiration of the bird. The account even posted stating, “I truly love this town and the occupiers of my land” in a post that got over 370 likes. 

However, Turkules would face some trouble. On October 23rd, an animal control van was spotted on the Kessler campus and soon a tranquilizer dart was seen in the turkey’s chest. But Turkles was still walking around prancing his stuff with his newfound dart. 

Luckily good news came from the situation when a brave soul who ventured near Turkles saw that “the dart is there and he is weaning [the dart] as a necklace of sorts[;] it didn’t penetrate [his] feathers”. But there were still a large number of people taking pictures of Turkules and calling for the dart to be removed.

With  West Orange’s feathery friend sparking residents to research, they found his “flock ostracized him…[the flock] are in the back of Kessler”. This backstory made people care for Turkules even more saying they “don’t think [they’ll] ever eat turkey again”, ‘[Turkules] is a great distraction from all the craziness and negativity”, and that they will “miss him” once he’s gone.

Although citizens were tempted to remove his dart, the Department of Health & Welfare says it is “strongly discouraged” to “[feed]  the turkey or [attempt] to remove [the] tranquilizing darts” for both the safety of Turkules and the human attempting it. However, citizens didn’t listen, realizing Turkules “is [definitely] taking [R]edubll or some type of supplement” and that people of West Orange should “be cautious [because] he is big and could…[do] some damage.”

After weeks of Turkules costumes, posts, and more animal control failed attempts, Turkules finally got captured on November 16th more than a month after his original spotting. He was released into the forest and now lives his days trotting through the trees possibly planning his return maybe just in time for Thanksgiving. Whether his comeback is meant to be, West Orange citizens will fondly remember their feathery friend, his impact being large enough to even change the WOHS Mountaineers to WOHS Turkeys (who wouldn’t want Turkules as the Turkey mascot)? 

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