US-NEWS-NJ-TURKEY-PH

Glenny was a wild turkey that lived in Haddon Heights, Camden County. He built a robust fan base who admired his ability to slow down speeding drivers and pose for photographs.

First, he was sent to the farm. Then, he bought the farm.

Glenny, Haddon Heights’ beloved celebrity turkey, was kidnapped — er, birdnapped? — from the Funny Farm Rescue and Sanctuary in Atlantic County this week and “humanely euthanized” by the State of New Jersey, officials said Thursday.

The massive wild turkey, who had a cultlike following for his habit of standing in the middle of streets and fanning his feathers for all to see, was relocated to the sanctuary Sunday after he was deemed a “local nuisance” for pecking at cars and blocking traffic in the middle of the busy Black Horse Pike.

But the sanctuary for Glenny was short-lived.

Funny Farm is for domestic animals only, state officials said Thursday, and Glenny, a wild turkey placed with the domestic birds without being quarantined for disease, had to go.

“Based upon protocols specified in a 2019 Wildlife Services agreement between the USDA and NJDFW (New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife), the turkey was humanely euthanized since it had been in contact with domestic birds and presented a disease risk to native wildlife,” USDA spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa told The Inquirer in a statement.

Laurie Zaleski, founder and owner of Funny Farm Animal Rescue, said Thursday she was contacted this month by friends in Haddon Heights, and even the township’s council, who were eager to find a safe place for Glenny to live out his golden years.

After taking the star turkey Sunday 40 miles southeast to her farm in Mays Landing, Zaleski said she checked with New Jersey officials Monday and they assured her she could take the tom turkey with her.

Zaleski said her farm, which she has had for 20 years, is home to more than 600 animals.

“I have other turkeys on my farm that people have dropped off in the same situation,” she added.

Zaleski said she has a license to hold wild animals for 48 hours before releasing them or handing them over to a state facility, but was hanging on to the bird because she was worried that releasing the turkey would further upset residents who were already anxious about Glenny being taken away.

But when she wasn’t home Wednesday, the state showed up and snatched South Jersey’s favorite fowl from her volunteers, Zaleski said.

“He was not a wild turkey, he was a socialized turkey,” she said. “We came up with a solution, and then they came and snatched him.”

Before Glenny’s end, he had brought the Camden County township together and tore it apart.

It all began in September, when Glenny, named by a young boy after Glenview Elementary School, began spending his days standing in the middle of Prospect Ridge Boulevard, a main road that connects the White Horse and Black Horse pikes, and exploring the surrounding parks.

Residents, some with bumper stickers sporting the bird, flocked to see the local star, taking pictures of him and posting them on Haddon Heights Turkey Talk, a Facebook group with nearly 1,100 members who bonded over Glenny and other neighborhood turkeys.

But in recent weeks, Glenny had grown bolder and started camping out in the middle of busy Black Horse Pike. Traffic jams ensued, and neighbors worried their favorite fowl could be hit by a car or cause an accident. Residents were trying to get a “turkey crossing” sign, and the topic of having him relocated even came up at a council meeting, said Jamie Davidson, the Facebook group’s founder.

Then Zaleski took Glenny to her farm, where he could roam freely with 30 other turkeys — and the controversy began, first on social media.

“What is this farm, and who took our bird?” people asked in the Facebook group.

“Have you seen me?” one resident posted with a picture of Glenny and the word “MISSING” underneath. “I was forcibly removed from my home in Haddon Heights, by someone believing they can control nature.”

“I think it’s a good thing that an animal is now in a safe place rather than the middle of the road where it could be hit, killed, or cause an accident with others hurt,” wrote another person. “We were amused for a few months. Time to move on. I can’t believe people are arguing about this.”

Funny Farm had even scheduled “Glenny Day” for this Sunday for residents to visit their favorite bird, and some criticized the farm for using him for publicity. Then Wednesday, it broke the news: Glenny had been taken by the state.

“‘Glenny Day’ — CANCELLED” it wrote. “Due to multiple complaints from Haddon Heights residents, today, the USDA Wildlife and the Dept of Environmental Protection Fish and Wildlife, came and removed ‘Glenny’ from the Funny Farm.”

The mayhem worsened. People blamed one another for Glenny’s capture. If the Turkey Talk group hadn’t made Glenny famous, he would still be there, some contended.

“Everybody lost their minds,” said Davidson. “Nobody wants to gather info before they slaughter one another and the town.”

Davidson left the Facebook group because of its growing toxicity. Members urged others to call the state, demanding their favorite bird’s return to Haddon Heights.

When she made the page, “I thought it was just a turkey. What could go wrong?” Davidson joked. “And then it did.”

As news of Glenny’s untimely death began to circulate on the Facebook page Thursday evening, mourners lamented the turkey gone too soon.

“No words, yes I’m crying,” wrote one resident. “I’m sorry Glenny that humans have taken your life. You were happy and loved. Brought most of this town together.”

“I hope you’re all happy,” another wrote. “He should’ve been left alone and now he’s been euthanized.”

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

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