LaSalle's talkin' turkey thanks to newest resident

2017-06-11 | Niagara Gazette

June 11--Joe Cesna thinks we could all learn a thing or two from Jake.

"He does a lot of walking," Cesna said in the front yard of his home off 56th Street. "He takes his time. He doesn't let anything bother him."

Some are confused, or even startled, by his sudden appearance on their driveway or lawn. Al Kifer was called to a resident's backyard and found Jake hiding behind a raccoon statuette. He fled over a nearby fence. Jake, that is.

Others call Jake "Fearless" and say he has something of an attitude.

"If he gets aggravated enough with you he'll get over and peck your car tires," said David Bauer, the animal control officer with the Niagara Falls Police Department. Bauer and other officers are among those who've met Jake, a bold and inquisitive male turkey that has taken up residence in LaSalle.

Bauer has seen Jake out stopping traffic all over town. Bauer's colleagues have been called in on occasion, both by apprehensive neighbors and passing drivers. Another time, police were called out to address reports of a few individuals trying to net Jake, Cesna said. So far he's outrun the cops and the hunters.

Kifer, a volunteer with the animal rehabilitation organization Wild Kritters of Niagara County said no one has a shot at catching a healthy Jake.

"The turkey is one of the few birds that sees in color," Kifer said in a telephone interview. When he spoke to the Gazette he said a rehabbing bird, a robin with a maimed leg, had arrived from the woods to eat berries out of his hand.

Ask any hunter, Kifer said, "a turkey a knows exactly what 60 yards is" and can "outrun a dog."

"That's the range of a shotgun," he added.

Jake will let you get a bit closer, 10 feet or so, or just outside the range of a throwing net, Kifer said.

The turkey is not the first notable wildlife neighbor the city has hosted in recent years. There have been reports of deer herds in the North End, foxes around abandoned homes in the center city, a recent rat problem, and estimates of stray and feral cats numbering in the tens of thousands spread across the city.

Kifer has responded to 17 calls from residents about Jake alone. Even so, Bauer doesn't think Jake is much a problem for anyone.

"He's not being total a nuisance, he's just his doing his thing," he said.

But there is something unique to Jake's disposition, Bauer said.

"This is the first one I've seen that actually will go out to more travelled areas where there's cars and people," he said. "That's why I call him 'Fearless.' "

Kifer said that's simply a product of adaptation in an urban area where the city's numerous vacant and abandoned parcels have been reclaimed by nature.

"Once they are displaced, they have no other choice but to adapt or die," he said. "The animals are learning to adapt, they're getting smarter and smarter."

And some in LaSalle, like Cesna and his wife, Linda, have adapted to Jake. Joe Cesna said he looks for him now in the mornings before he lets his dogs out.

"Everybody watches out for him around here," he said.

Kifer said Jake will be a fine neighbor, and has some offspring to carry on his legacy, as long as people don't get too close to the wild bird. It's an animal, and must maintain a large degree of self-sufficiency if it is to continue to survive. He bristled at the mention of a rabies investigation by the Niagara County Health Department after a young raccoon was brought into a city of Lockport bar earlier this month. Handling unfamiliar wildlife can be a damaging mistake.

Kifer said his robin, despite its temporary dependency on him, was raised in the wild and flies freely around the woods near his home. One day, the bird will be gone.

"She'll get a fancy and start a life in a new place," Kifer said.

The same goes for Jake, he said.

For video of Jake the turkey visiting a LaSalle area home, visit our website at