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Group of Staten Island turkeys saved from death

A group of the Staten Island turkeys, once destined to die, were taken to a Hudson Valley animal sanctuary over the weekend.

You could say they flew the coop — but really, they flew into one.

A group of the Staten Island turkeys, once destined to die, were taken to a Hudson Valley animal sanctuary over the weekend.

"I'm sure they're a little perplexed," said Kathy Stevens, founder and director of Catskill Animal Sanctuary, where 28 of the turkeys now live.

Earlier this summer, the United States Department of Agriculture began rounding up turkeys that have lived on the South Beach Psychiatric Center grounds for over a decade.

Because of health risks from their waste, the birds were taken from the grounds and euthanized at a food processing facility.

Eventually, federal and state agencies partnered with outraged animal rights groups to take some of the birds to the sanctuary.

"It was interesting because it was a coalition of groups that are often on opposite sides of animal issues," Stevens said.

There are at least 40 turkeys still on Staten Island. In a month, the sanctuary will assess if they can take in more.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has been monitoring the beloved Staten Island turkeys for several years. The original birds were part of an abandoned domestic flock but have since bred with wild turkeys — making the current group hybrids.

"I have never heard of a situation like this, but when people take domesticated animals and abandon them, then of course things like this are going to occur," Stevens said.

The birds are used to being fed by Staten Islanders, Stevens noted.

"They've been out in the wild and being fed peanut butter and jelly, now we're giving them sunflower seeds and corn," she said.

The creatures now live in an $8,000 turkey barn funded by GooseWatchNYC, a group known for rounding up geese to save them from slaughter in Brooklyn.

Soon, the turkeys will also have a 12-foot fenced area so they can roam around, though their wings will be clipped.

"We're optimistic," Stevens said. "They have a great big old outside space."

You can donate to help care for the turkeys on the Catskill Animal Sanctuary website.

Under strict guidelines, those interested in having a "lifelong turkey companion" can also adopt the creatures once the sanctuary is certain they're healthy.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders

 
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