Wild Encounters: Trained Turkey

Wild Encounters

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WJBF) – NewsChannel 6’s Brandon Dawson takes us to River Banks Zoo to see Stewie, a trained turkey with a few tricks.

“We are hanging out with Stewie today and Kaitlyn, what can you tell us about Stewie?”

Kaitlyn Pleau / Farm Zookeeper: “Stewie is actually our newest resident down here at the farm. He is a Narragansett turkey. You might be able to hear him a little bit; but he’s a super exciting addition to the farm. He’s really personable and we work a lot with him. So, we are really happy to have him here. Narrangansett turkeys were originally bred in Rhode Island, which is where they get their name, the Narrangansett Bay; but they’re a pretty large bird, too. Stewie here is just six months old and he is already close to 16 pounds. So, he’s a pretty large bird.”

“Now, you actually do something special with Stewie that I haven’t seen before: you train him. So, I want you to tell us a little about that and what goes into the process of training a turkey and what he can do.”

Kaitlyn: “Stewie here is an exceptionally smart bird. So, we like to work with all of our animals to train them different behaviors that really assist with the care of the animal, whether that’s health care, maybe getting their weight, or just asking them to move to locations and sometimes we like to do some different fun things, as well. Stewie here, we hope he’ll be able to go out into the park and meet our guests. So, right now, what we are working on…we are working on a target and I have his very special target pole here, which…he is actually right below me here asking to touch it. So, we work on a target to ask him to go to different locations.”

“How long did it take you to train him?”

Kaitlyn: “Stewie has been here inside the farm for two to three months. We started to work with him by actually sitting in his enclosure and letting him get very comfortable with us. As you can imagine, turkeys are a prey species, so it takes a lot of time to gain that trust instead of going in and being comfortable immediately. Stewie learned to target in about three or four sessions, which is a really good step, and now he’s just progressing faster and faster. He’s almost too smart for me to keep up with.”

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