by Harvey Creasey–
Blacksburg, Va. — Virginia Tech recently found itself back in the spotlight in our nation’s capital on Thanksgiving morning. President Trump participated in the annual turkey pardoning ceremony, and officially sent Drumstick and Wishbone to Gobbler’s Rest — a secluded spot of Virginia Tech’s campus.
This marks the second consecutive year that the White House turkeys have moved to Blacksburg. In 2016, President Barack Obama granted clemency for Tater and Tot, the inaugural residents of Gobbler’s Rest.
As Wishbone and Drumstick become the new centers of attention, Tater and Tot have taken a back seat — so much so that Tot, according to sources familiar with the matter, has passed away.
Wildlife conservation major and member of the National Wildlife Society Tristan Jilson said he saw Tater and Tot at Gobbler’s Rest just days before the new turkeys were set to arrive.
“When I last saw Tot he was slumped over against the wall barely moving,” said Jilson. “He looked miserable.”
Two weeks later, Tater alone occupies the space previously inhabited by the duo. Tot’s nameplate had been removed.
According to National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger, the turkeys reside at Virginia Tech because of its respected Animal and Poultry Sciences department.
Turkeys have an average lifespan of 10 years, according to PETA. So what happened to Tot just 18 months after his birth?
At Gobbler’s Rest, a farmhand who wished to remain unnamed said he thought Tot “passed away due to natural causes.”
Jilson remains skeptical.
“Virginia Tech has portrayed Gobbler’s Rest as this safe haven for the pardoned turkeys but now it’s starting to look less like a refuge and more like a graveyard,” he said.
This news has been kept relatively quiet; as of Dec. 3 no university statement had been issued. Perhaps a poultry fatality at one of the nation’s best Animal and Poultry Sciences schools would tarnish its reputation.
At this Thanksgiving’s ceremony, in the White House Rose Garden, President Trump joked about reversing the pardons of Tater and Tot, as he has reversed many Obama-era policies.
Tater and Tot drew many visitors to Gobbler’s Rest over the course of the last year.
According to President Obama’s speech, Tater was technically the “vice turkey,” and would step in if Tot could not fulfill his duties.
Wishbone and Drumstick declined to comment on the matter.