West Orange Residents Lament the Capture of ‘Turkules’ the Wild Turkey

The elusive bird endeared himself to locals as he caused mile-long traffic jams and evaded officials for weeks. He was finally relocated to Wharton State Forest.

Wild turkey
Turkules (not pictured), the wild turkey that became a local celebrity in West Orange, was captured by local officials and relocated to Hammonton. Photo: Shutterstock/Photo Spirit

Turkules’ reign of terror is over.

The wild turkey that became a local celebrity, after it both threatened and entertained residents in West Orange and beyond, has been captured by state wildlife officials and relocated to Wharton State Forest.

But some residents are heartbroken that the fugitive turkey, who took up residence on a small patch of grass next to a busy road, will no longer be around to cause chaos. In fact, many people believe the Thanksgiving symbol brought the town together.

Turkules, named by a local resident, first appeared over the summer when he began wandering onto nearby Pleasant Valley Way from a patch of grass he inhabited, causing mile-long traffic jams. His fearless nature and aggressive attitude toward traffic and local authorities only made him more popular.

His fame grew as animal control officers proved unable to catch him.

In one episode, officials shot the turkey with a tranquilizer dart—but the resilient bird merely spent the next few weeks strutting around with the blue and orange dart hanging from his breast.

The three-foot-tall elusive Butterball became fodder for locals, who regularly posted photos of the bird on Facebook and Instagram.

One resident wrote on Facebook: “Honestly, just let our Turkules alone. We took his land! A little comic relief is just what we need right now. Turkules 2024!”

West Orange businesses even organized a “Hometown Hero” event in his honor, with a portion of profits going to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Said one resident, “He was just our little uniter. The one thing that makes us smile, the thing that everyone could agree on.”

Alas, this Thanksgiving was the end of the line for Turkules after a weeks-long effort by local officials to capture him.

But although officials moved the bird to the forest in Hammonton this week, many residents believe they haven’t seen the last of him. They’re sure he’ll be back.

“He is resilient,” Gia Garcia, who owns Willow and Olivia dessert cafe in West Orange, told The Guardian newspaper. “To see a turkey actively show a type of protective nature for that patch of land, and then for him to walk around with a tranq dart in him, I mean, that’s badass.”

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