Sam Delgado hasn’t seen much wildlife around his neighborhood in Newark’s North Ward, a bustling corner of the city filled with shops and towering brick apartment buildings. So he was a little awestruck yesterday afternoon to see three wild turkeys nonchalantly trot across Mount Prospect Avenue. Sporting black feathers and red wattle, the nearly 3-foot-tall birds were headed toward the North Ward Center.”They moved very slowly. They were taking their time,” said Delgado, 52, who is married to Esmeralda Cameron, the city spokeswoman. “It was pretty remarkable.”
Delgado and Cameron were driving in their Honda CRV about 3:15 p.m. when they spotted the birds between Abington and Second avenues, Delgado said. They and another stunned city dweller paused to snap a few pictures. “I’ve been living in the North Ward for 20 years and never saw a wild turkey. I’ve seen raccoon but not wild turkeys,” Delgado said. Sgt. Ron Glover, police spokesman, said the department did not receive any calls yesterday about turkey sightings or any other wild fowl. There are no businesses in the neighborhood that sell or process live birds, he said.
While Delgado and Glover both expressed surprise over the small flock walking on a city street, Pat Scheuer, director of the wildlife center Lorrimer Sanctuary in Franklin Lakes, Bergen County, was not shocked that the wild turkeys were in Newark. “I think it’s pretty normal,” he said. “We’ve been getting sightings of wild turkeys popping up all over northern New Jersey.” About 20 to 25 years ago, Scheuer said, the birds were a rare sight in the state due to over-hunting and habitat loss. But conservation efforts have caused the population to explode in many states, including New Jersey.
In some places, turkeys have become nuisances. Truck drivers and mechanics in the industrial Michigan city of Jackson have complained in recent days of over-aggressive turkeys. And in Tilburn, Calif. — about 10 miles north of San Francisco — residents have reported the fowl destroying landscaping and scratching vehicles. Yesterday’s Newark turkeys caused no apparent tomfoolery. They probably ended up in the city because they were hopping from one park to another, Scheuer said. The birds were found walking a couple blocks from Branch Brook Park. “They follow these green corridors, any undeveloped areas, riverways, and undeveloped shorelines,” he said. “They are not shy.”