2008 National Turkey Dies, but the Alternate Lives On

Pumpkin, the Thanksgiving turkey pardoned by Bush, died, but the alternate is alive and pecking.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Each year, a presidential pardon saves the National Thanksgiving Turkey and his "alternative" from the holiday oven. This year will be no different. President Obama gets his chance with the national gobbler on Wednesday.

Sadly, death typically comes soon afterward, because turkeys are bred to be so heavy that they generally live just 18 weeks (or would, if they weren't already on store shelves before then). Breeders say it's just too hard to get around the fact that the birds' legs and organs aren't made to take care of a Biggest Loser-sized turkey.

But since Disneyland and Disney World opened retirement ranches for the birds five years ago, their life span has increased a bit. Disneyland Resort spokeswoman Betsy Sanchez tells Whispers that last year's top tom, Pumpkin, made it until the end of the summer and that alternative Pecan is still strutting. "It makes us sad," she says of Pumpkin's death.

But along with keeping Pecan living, Mickey's magic is working for two older birds. The 2007's turkeys, May and Flower, are still showing off their stuffing at Florida's Disney World.

The two birds Obama will pardon next week will join Pecan in California.

This year's turkeys are expected to get the royal treatment, just like Pumpkin and Pecan did. Those two spent the night before the pardon in a suite in Washington's posh Willard Hotel and then were flown first-class to Disneyland to head up the Disney Thanksgiving Day Parade. They then went to live at Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland, where the two Obama birds also will live.

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