Aging Deer Finds Companionship with Young Turkeys

August 4, 2020

In May, Green Chimneys received a call from longtime friend James Eyring, Assistant Director of the Nature Center at Pace University, regarding two newly hatched turkeys in need of a home. Our wildlife experts knew exactly how these two would live out their days.

The Paul C. Kupchok Wildlife Center is one facet of the Green Chimneys Farm & Wildlife Center and is well known for the birds of prey that are either permanently injured residents or temporary guests in need of rehabilitation. The Wildlife Center is also home to several other species, including resident Golden Pheasants and quail, a Kookaburra, a variety of ducks, Emperor and Snow geese, and more. A Japanese Sika deer has long called Green Chimneys home. Originally living here as part of a small herd, the deer has outlived the others. In more recent years, the deer shared her paddock with turkeys and became very accustomed to them. She could even be found huddling in the shed close to the turkeys. Unfortunately, one night last fall, her companions were killed by a predator, likely a bobcat or an owl. The 22-year-old deer was alone once again.

Creating Opportunities for Companionship

As a herd animal, deer thrive from company. When the gift of two turkey chicks was offered by Pace University, Green Chimneys readily accepted with the intention of introducing new companions to the deer. The chicks initially lived in the wildlife classroom and were eventually moved to a fenced area within the deer’s paddock. Last week our wildlife experts invited the chicks to step outside of their hutch to explore the expanse of their forever home. The young turkeys initially moved about together. Though tentative, the deer managed to step out from one of her favorite resting spots to catch a glimpse of the turkeys roaming freely. Since then the three appear to be adjusting well and new bonds are being formed.

STudents Watch & Connect

It may seem an unusual pairing but turkeys and deer can often be seen grazing and foraging together in the wild. Cohabitating at Green Chimneys provides the deer and turkeys a more natural environment for both species. Studying these relationships is just one of a wealth of ways in which Green Chimneys School students are encouraged to build connections with the natural world. Students have already begun visiting the paddock to get a peek at the deer’s new “roommates.”

And in the peace and quiet of the Wildlife Center, animal caretakers, teachers, and clinicians are tapping into these new relationships as a means to talk with students about situations many can relate to, including:
  • It’s not always easy being alone or feeling lonely, and it’s ok to need others.
  • Friends cannot be replaced, but new friends can be made.
  • New friendships can be fostered, at any age, and sometimes when you least expect it.

Nature-Based Education & Therapies in Action

From science lessons in wildlife class to helping to care for the animals to utilizing the Farm & Wildlife Center as a place to self-regulate, students with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges rely on the animals and gardens and the pathways in between. With the dawn of COVID-19 pandemic and all of the necessary precautions that have since followed, we understand that working creatively to help students maintain connections with the natural world (and foster new connections) is as important as ever. We’re appreciative of Pace University for gifting this pair of turkeys, and we look forward to sharing updates from the deer and turkey paddock.

Explore the role of animals and nature at Green Chimneys