Working together to help Shelton's Split Rock turkey get back to the wild

Editor’s Note: The Split Rock wild turkey was observed on Thursday, Jan. 22 at about 4:55 p.m. trying to cross Bridgeport Avenue at the Commerce Drive/Old Stratford Road intersection, where it wandered back and forth a bit, with drivers maneuvering so as not to hit it. The wild turkey eventually returned to the side where it had begun its effort to cross, settling in front of the Center at Split Rock shopping complex.

To the Editor:

The entire town of Shelton has grown to love our local mascot — the Split Rock wild turkey. She has gained much attention and concern within the past few months.

Local wildlife rehabilitators, such as myself, have kept a close eye on her well-being and the strange behavior she exhibits of always appearing solo, rather than with a flock.

The wild turkey species is, by nature, a flocking and social species. Being such, flocks maintain home ranges and recognize individual animals within each flock.

They establish a “pecking order” with dominant and subordinate individuals (like chickens). Dominant individuals will peck at or chase subordinates, especially away from food sources.

There could be two possibilities for this lone hen: (1) She is a subordinate, and cannot compete in the pecking order of the flock. Therefore she has chosen to leave the flock and to survive on her own. (2) She is an old hen that has been barren for a few years. Being without poults (young fowl), she has no incentive to socialize.

Barren hens typically flock with others without broods, whereas hens with young will form their own flock.

While there may or may not be a turkey flock nearby, the Split Rock wild turkey seemingly prefers to be on her own. She is spotted at nearby businesses throughout the day, and her adventures cause traffic issues on Bridgeport Avenue.

Don't feed the wild turkey

Well-meaning people may actually be causing her dangerous stay, by continuously feeding her. While the intentions are kind, that kindness is inherently hurting the wild turkey.

When any wild animal is being fed by humans, it leads to human dependency and lack of proper nutritional value (birds can develop a deformity called angel wing from being fed such things as breads and crackers).

In this case, feeding wildlife also may pose a risk to the wildlife’s physical safety as well as to public safety.

As for cars, it's a lucky turkey so far

It is a miracle the amount of luck this turkey has had in not being struck by an oncoming car — but that luck may not last. If we all truly care for our Shelton mascot, let nature provide her the natural foods she forages for, and cease the intentional feedings that are keeping her here.

Once we all work together, it is hoped this turkey will then move on, on her own, for her safety and the safety of all drivers on the busy Bridgeport Avenue.

If anyone comes across injured or orphaned wildlife, please immediately contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or call the local animal control officer, police department or state DEEP dispatch (860-424-3333) for assistance.

Never attempt to re-locate or treat a wild animal on your own as it poses risk to you and that animal’s well-being for survival. In working together, we can all help make a difference.

Lisa Dickal