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Columbia Spectator Staff

Several weeks ago, a beloved Morningside Heights resident went missing. Unfortunately, she was more likely to turn up on a dinner plate than on the side of a milk carton.

Her name is Hedda Gobbler, but locals are more likely to just call her "the turkey that lives in Morningside Park."

Her disappearance could have gone down as one of those New York City mysteries, with most residents assuming she took off for browner pastures or ended up as someone's early Thanksgiving dinner, but good news came on April 12.

"The Police Department netted a wild turkey that was wandering around in a housing complex on E. 135th Street, not too far from here. They took her to Animal Care and Control, and when we saw that, we gave them a call and said, 'That might be our turkey,'" said Adrian Benepe, Journalism '81 and commissioner of Parks and Recreation.

Animal Control turned the bird over to the Parks Department, which named the turkey Hedda Gobbler and released her back into her home near the 116th Street entrance to the park. All's well that doesn't end with Hedda roasting on a spit.

Linda Miller, an urban park ranger, said, "The residents have a total love for the turkey. They're very happy she's back."

No one's sure exactly how long Hedda has been living in the park, especially since she isn't the first of her kind to take up residence there. Jacquie Connors, of the Friends of Morningside Park, said that Hedda was preceded by a male turkey as well as some younger turkeys, so she's not very unusual. Brad Taylor, president of the Friends of Morningside Park, agreed. "It's probably the most frequent question we get, like, 'Do you guys know there's a turkey in the park? I just saw this thing...' And they think they're the first people who have ever seen it."

As the reigning park turkey, however, she's caught the eye of the media and won over the hearts of the residents who frequent the park. Of course, it's not easy to notice a turkey is missing when she's the same color as most of the foliage, leading to a "Where's Hedda?" feeling when searching the park for her.

But turkeys are becoming easier to come across, according to Benepe. Thanks to a successful reintroduction program that began in the 1950s, turkeys are more common today than they once were.

So if you find yourself stumbling down College Walk after a night of bar-hopping, the turkey you see running around might not be a vodka-fueled hallucination. As Benepe said, "They're becoming so used to humans that they're just gonna go where they want to go. It wouldn't surprise me if one came up and sat on the lap of Alma Mater."