Video: “He’s the Bear Grylls of the turkey world” - Plucky pet turkey Bernard escapes attack and survives outback ordeal to be reunited with East Ruston family in time for Christmas

Bernard the turkey with owner Ellie Waite from East Ruston.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Bernard the turkey with owner Ellie Waite from East Ruston. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Thursday, December 19, 2013
6:30 AM

A death-defying turkey is looking forward to a happy Christmas off the dinner table after escaping attack and surviving alone in the wilderness.

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Bernard the turkey from East Ruston.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYBernard the turkey from East Ruston. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Bernard the Norfolk black turkey fought off a fox and defied a dog during his outback exploits that took him five miles from his East Ruston home - and saw him reunited with his family through a Facebook appeal.

The eight-month-old bird was bought as a pet by Ellie Waite and soon became a firm favourite among her family’s brood of chickens, ducks and dogs with his cheeky personality and inquisitive nature.

He would come running when called, enjoyed cuddles and regularly wander into the house if the door was left open.

So the family were devastated when two weeks ago, they went out in the morning to discover a pile of black feathers and no sign of Bernard.

Mrs Waite, 32, who runs Springfield Kennels with her husband Russell, 39, said: “The fox had come to claim his Christmas lunch early. My husband searched the fields to see if he could find his remains or any sign of him but to no avail, Bernard was dead.

“It was horrendous, we were in mourning.”

Ten days later however, hopes were raised he could still be alive after the family’s next door neighbour mentioned a fellow villager had found a turkey sitting on her doorstep.

Mrs Waite, mum to ten-year-old Ben, rushed to the woman’s house and was told a badly injured Bernard had indeed visited - but since disappeared.

“The lovely lady had been caring for him, putting him in her garage at night and letting him in her garden during the day,” she said. “But when she returned from work one evening Bernard had gone without a trace. My heart sank, I was too late.”

Back in the wilderness, the family feared there was no way he would survive as he would not have been able to roost out of the reach of predators, due to his injuries.

Regardless, they organised an early morning search party but there was no trace of their beloved bird. In a last ditch effort, Mrs Waite posted an appeal on Facebook.

Her plea spread quickly across the social networking site, with everyone rooting for Bernard’s safe return - however unlikely so close to Christmas. But within two hours, Mrs Waite had a reply.

“To my utter amazement I got a message from someone who had seen my cry for help. She said ‘I think I have got your turkey here’.

“After nearly falling through the floor I made contact with the lady who was actually in Happisburgh, about five miles away.”

Bernard had been spotted by a dog walker not far from home. Unfortunately the dog was not a bird fan and gave chase, but the ever resilient turkey fought back and managed to escape - again.

The dog walker took his pet home and returned to the field, where Bernard promptly popped out from the undergrowth. Not knowing what to do with the injured bird the man called his friend in Happisburgh who keeps chickens.

Bernard soon became a much-adored addition to his adopted family - until they saw the Facebook post and were able to finally reunite him with the Waites.

Now safely back in East Ruston, Bernard is taking no chances.

Mrs Waite said: “He used to roost up on top of our chicken house and refused to go in with the chickens. Since he’s been home he’s been putting himself away with the ducks at night.

“He’s a bit battered and bruised but he’s fine. He’s just shown such resilience, he’s a proper butt-kicking bird. He’s the Bear Grylls of the turkey world.”

Since his ordeal and online appeal, Bernard has also become something of a celebrity with people stopping the family in the street to ask how he is.

And he is now looking forward to a merry Christmas at home - where no poultry will be plated.

“He watches us eat through the conservatory window so there’s no way I could eat turkey with him watching, we’ll have ham this year,” Mrs Waite added.

“I think turkey is definitely off the menu for the foreseeable future.”


  • Mr T. If you want to see "bad" news, watch TV. Every news channel scours the world for death and destruction on which to report. Good to see a story that is joyful isn't it?

    Report this comment

    norman hall

    Thursday, December 19, 2013

  • Obviously a bad news day, this story isn't even worthy of a small section up the corner of the paper, let alone the front page and two full pages inside. What is the world coming to when this is the best news we can trawl up.

    Report this comment

    Mr T

    Thursday, December 19, 2013

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