It seems 2020 is only getting more bizarre: a rose garden in California has been forced to close to visitors after a turkey named Gerald wouldn’t stop attacking people.
Gerald isn’t new to the Grand Lake neighbourhood in Oakland. In fact, the animal – who wasn’t always this aggressive – used to walk peacefully among residents, even queuing for carpools with them.
In recent weeks though, as the global health crisis has forced people indoors and Gerald’s routine has been knocked for six, the turkey has taken to viciously attacking anyone he encounters, particularly anyone who’s visiting the Oakland Morcom Rose Garden.
It’s not known exactly how many times Gerald has attacked park visitors, although Oakland Animal Services has received more than a dozen email complaints about the turkey.
‘His favourite target seems to be older women, although young children are also at great risk,’ one email read, reports. Another person wrote: ‘I swear I was getting flashbacks to the velociraptor scenes in as he was cooing at me sizing me up. And before you laugh at all this, I’m telling you he was relentless!’
Others described the turkey charging at them, jumping on them, and clawing and pecking at them as they tried to run away. After weeks of this behaviour, the city’s parks department made the decision to close the garden for health and safety reasons.
A notice posted by the city’s park department at the end of May said the decision to close the park was made not only by Oakland Animal Services and Oakland’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Development, but by the Department of Public Works too.
The notice read:
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.
Wildlife at the park is regulated by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), according to the notice, which said a request to relocate the turkey was declined by CDFW. The department instead encouraged them to keep the park closed and ‘train the turkey to keep distance from humans’.
‘We have been advised this will only work if all feeding of the turkeys and other wildlife stops completely,’ the notice said, concluding ‘it is hoped that visitors can return to the Rose Garden soon’.
The city will continue to follow the instructions given by CDFW regarding when the park might reopen, although that may take some time as Gerald is continuing to chase people. A spokesperson for Oakland Animal Services, Ann Dunn, said while Gerald’s attacks have decreased, the turkey ‘is still approaching and chasing people’.
‘From the advice I received from wildlife experts, we would know the retraining has worked if he retreats and keeps his distance from people,’ she explained. ‘Unfortunately, he is not doing that on a consistent basis, even with very few people in the park.’
I think Gerald just needs some time to wrap his head around 2020, guys. We can all sympathise with that, right?