The turkey, a large male, nicknamed “Tom,” “Token” and “Mr. Gobbles,” by members of the Waukazoo Woods neighborhood, was killed on the corner of Dyken Avenue and Edgewood Drive.
In a neighborhood Facebook page, resident Que-Lan Bergen Engels said her daughter witnessed the death of Mr. Gobbles shortly before 7 p.m. on the Fourth of July.
“My daughter just witnessed a horrific act of animal cruelty,” Engels posted. “I’m calling these kids out, don’t know their names, but they were on the corner of Dyken and Edgewood. One young lady got into her car and ran a turkey over repeatedly, while a cohort of three other boys beat it with a golf club and a metal pole, with another boy holding a pellet gun.
“My daughter was absolutely horrified at their glee. The poor bird lies dead in the street. Whoever did this, shame on you! What kind of people do this? We live in the woods, sharing our land with wild animals. I get that the turkey can be annoying, but to target the creature and torture it to death in this way is not OK.”
Some community members disagreed that Mr. Gobbles’ death was a tragedy. While some said their children had been chased by the bird before, others said the turkey was very gentle. One family posted a video of their son playing with Mr. Gobbles, running around with the turkey as the boy trained for his cross country team.
A police report was filed with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed Sgt. David VanderPloeg. Park Township officials are also aware of the incident and have talked with the sheriff’s office.
VanderPloeg said the death of Mr. Gobbles is still under investigation. He said once the investigation is complete, the sheriff’s office will turn over the police report to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether any criminal charges should be filed.
The sheriff’s office has identified several individuals involved in Mr. Gobbles’ death, VanderPloeg said. One neighbor in the Waukazoo Woods Facebook page said they confronted the owner of the home of the individuals responsible, but the father of the teens laughed at the neighbor. Neighbors said there was a party going on at the home in question at the time of the turkey’s death.
Hunting a turkey out of season is punishable by a $1,000 fine, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Those found responsible for the hunting of an out-of-season turkey can have their hunting licenses revoked for the rest of the year for all hunts, as well as for the three following years.
“You could look at it as taking game out of season, which is DNR, or as animal cruelty,” VanderPloeg said. “We enforce DNR rules, though.
“We’re hearing he was like the area pet, he was really docile,” VanderPloeg said. “But other people were saying he was really aggressive and was chasing people.”
“I am just so sad that this happened,” wrote Christie Greco on the neighborhood Facebook page. “I loved it when I had to slow down for the animal and all my kids would giggle ’cause he looked so silly and clueless in the middle of the road.”
Resident Leslie Henley disagreed.
“Two months ago, everyone was complaining about the turkey chasing and attacking their kids, the mailman, cars and people on bikes,” Henley wrote. “I’ve had to help people stuck in their cars numerous times because of this turkey.”
Waukazoo Woods resident Rick Pfahl said Mr. Gobbles had been hanging around the neighborhood for several months.
“For the most part, most people feel that it was a good thing to have that turkey around,” Pfahl said. “You see turkeys out in the country, but not often in subdivisions. It was neat, he added a little bit of interest to the mundane lives we lead.”
Pfahl called the way Mr. Gobbles died “absolutely ridiculous” and “totally out of line.” He thinks the individuals responsible should have to volunteer helping to care for sick and injured animals to make up for their actions.
“I think the best thing is just for these young people to realize they did something ridiculous. We live in a very unique area and we’re lucky enough to wind up with it. Special care should be given to take care of everything that’s in it.”
Mr. Gobbles is survived by a hen and multiple offspring, according to residents in the area.