It’s a tale of a wild turkey nicknamed Tom, his fight for survival and his ability to touch the lives of a woman in New Rochelle, a veterinarian in Pelham and a wildlife rehabilitator in Putnam County.
But it has yet to be determined whether Tom’s story ends on a happy or sad note.
“He’s very calm,” Maggie Ciarcia, a Carmel-based wildlife rehabilitator, said of the 15-pound turkey that came into her care this week. “He has huge spurs on his feet which they use to fight with. Just the fact that he’s let me handle him isn’t normal. One of these days I’m going to come in and he’s going to try to whack me with those big wings. That’s when I’ll know it’s time to send him back out into the wild.”
The thought of the Tom making it anywhere seemed implausible a week ago.
It all started on March 8 when Tina Coleman, a New Rochelle resident known for her work rescuing animals, was driving southbound on the Hutchinson River Parkway. Coleman said it was one of the few times that she wasn’t in a rush.
“I just happened to be there,” Coleman said. “I run a doggy daycare and I walk dogs. I was driving to a dog walking appointment in New Rochelle.”
While driving, Coleman looked on the shoulder of the road and saw what appeared to be a discarded piece of cardboard. She was about to go on her way when she saw the outstretched neck of what appeared to be a turkey.
She immediately got off on Exit 23 of the Hutchinson River Parkway and turned back around to pick the turkey up.
“His head and neck was stretched out and he was salivating and panting,” Coleman said. “He was definitely stressed. He didn’t look normal.”
Coleman and others believe the bird was clipped by a moving vehicle or possibly flew into a windshield. Coleman picked the turkey up and drove it to the Manor Veterinary Clinic in Pelham.
Coleman also named the bird Thomasina, believing it was a female.
“We find out when we got to the vet’s office that it was actually a ‘tom’ turkey,” Coleman said.
The fact that Coleman, who used to work in veterinary hospital, picked Tom up from the road isn’t unusual. She has always loved animals as a child and has become the neighborhood’s go-to person for animal problems. Even though she’s not licensed by the state, people just assume she’s an animal rehabilitator.
From raccoons, to cats, bats and squirrels, Coleman has seen it all and provided as much help she can. Sometimes animals just find their way up to her doorstep.
“I don’t need to find them,” Coleman said. “They just seem to find me.”
Dr. Rich Jakimer of the Manor Veterinary Clinic knows this first hand. That’s why he wasn’t completely surprised to see Coleman walk into his office with an animal in need of care.
Jakimer said the bird was treated with antibiotics, hydrated and given medicine to deal with the pain.
“It was kind of shocked and dazed,” Jakimer said. “You could pet it and it didn’t try getting away. It warms your heart to see that it was friendly, even though it was probably due to the head trauma. There’s just a feeling of goodwill when you try to help something that is fluttering through nature.”
Coleman calls wild turkey specialist
In the meantime, Coleman got in contact Ciarcia. Ciarcia, who is a licensed animal rehabilitator, specializes in wild turkeys, according to Coleman.
Ciarcia took the turkey in on Saturday.
“I called her on Wednesday and she said that he was being very sweet and nice,” Coleman said.
Ciarcia said Tom appears to be blind for the time being.
“It happens when they take a hit on the head,” Ciarcia said. “Sometimes it takes a while for them to get their vision back.”
Ciarcia said the vision loss might also be caused by some parasitic infestation. If that’s the case, Ciarcia said she will wait until the turkey get stronger before giving him stronger medication.
Once Tom recovers, Ciarcia said she plans to release him back to his natural habitat, near the Hutchinson River Parkway. She’s seen flocks of wild turkeys in that area, near the Greenburg Nature Center, and believes that’s the group Tom hangs with.
“I can’t just release him anywhere,” Ciarcia said. “Turkeys are very territorial and he would be the odd man out. I need to bring back to where he came from so that he’ll know where the food sources and water supply is.”
Coleman reminisces on how colorful and shiny Tom’s feathers are. She described him as being as colorful as newly opened box of crayons.
“Of course, I’d like to keep that little turkey,” Coleman lamented. “But it’s not fair to him. He needs to go back to where he belongs.”
Tina Coleman resides in New Rochelle. An earlier version of this article stated otherwise.