A wild turkey living around Oakland's Morcom Rose Garden made the news several weeks ago after reports that he had been "terrorizing" anyone trying to sit or picnic in the rose garden. Now, the park has been closed by the city out of concerns for peoples' safety, and the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife has approved a "depredation" permit that would allow the city to humanely euthanize the bird if its behavior does not change.
Reader reactions ranged from mild amusement to passionate defense of the turkey whom neighbors have named Gerald after the initial story went up, with one Gerald defender suggesting that SFist had fed into an ill-informed narrative by taking these Chronicle quotes from Gerald's victims at face value. While some visitors claimed to be minding their own business and being attacked by the turkey, Oakland resident Molly Bentley suggested that the turkey had been frequently "chased" by humans who tried to get pictures with it.
"You did not include in your piece that that the male Turkey has a family; it is mating season and he has a female and chicks," Bentley writes. "The turkey's behavior coincides with the tiny garden becoming packed with visitors during this era of social-distancing. People fill the park, even walking through the areas where the turkey family finds protection."
Another resident posted an update on a utility pole near the rose garden explaining the situation after the park had closed, and saying that wildlife experts blamed people feeding the turkey on his aggressive behavior — not on the alleged turkey family he was raising nearby.
On Twitter, another Gerald fan, Mike Taylor, showed a picture of Gerald hanging out in the casual carpool line near the park in the months before the pandemic.
"Save Gerald!" he writes, calling the turkey "friendly," and adding, "It’s so fun to see Gerald out and about and to share sightings with my friends and family. He’s the honorary neighborhood mayor!"
Save Gerald, the friendly, casual carpooling Oakland Rose Garden turkey! Only one week left with the depredation permit. @CaliforniaDFW @oaklandsanimals @oaklandopr @SteveRubeSF @jaybarmann pic.twitter.com/xJNqPyiKbo— Mike Taylor (@miketaylorw) June 12, 2020
Still, other neighbors aren't such fan, and there are reports of Gerald attacking children and senior citizens. And one resident has allegedly been seen trying to harm Gerald, as well.
Animal Services staff is reportedly working to retrain Gerald to wild foraging behavior, hopefully to stop him from attacking people and their picnics. And relocation of the bird is not allowed under state law.
"The city is aware of and is taking seriously several incidents of attacks by a male turkey in the park and considers this a public safety concern," a posted notice at the park said, adding that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife "denied the city's request to relocate the turkey, indicating that it is not a solution, nor allowed by state law."
Euthanasia is reportedly considered a last resort by city officials, and Taylor is pushing neighbors to rally to save Gerald from such a fate.
A spokesperson for Oakland Animal Services, Ann Dunn, tells ABC 7 that while Gerald's attacks have decreased, he continues to aggressively chasing people — apparently outside the rose garden, since it is closed.
"From the advice I received from wildlife experts, we would know the retraining has worked if he retreats and keeps his distance from people," Dunn said. "Unfortunately, he is not doing that on a consistent basis, even with very few people in the park."