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Rogue turkey eludes authorities, vexes drivers

by CJ Carnacchio

February 08, 2012

DNR Conservation Officer Brandon Kieft uses his truck to block traffic on Seymour Lake Rd. as he chases after the infamous jake who’s quickly becoming a local legend. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
Everyone's heard of a wild goose chase, but what about a wild turkey chase?

That's exactly what happened last week on Seymour Lake Rd. as employees from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), along with some citizen volunteers, were unsuccessful in their attempts to capture a jake a juvenile male wild turkey who's become infamous for causing traffic problems in the area between Sanders and Coats roads.

"That thing's turning into a folk hero," said Oakland County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Patterson, commander of the Oxford Township substation.

The turkey roosts in an oak tree in front of the home of Tom and Nadine Claycomb. It's been ranging in that area for about two months, but it's only been over the last few weeks that he's been wandering out into the middle of busy Seymour Lake Rd., creating a safety hazard for passing motorists.

He frequently stops traffic in both directions as many drivers patiently wait for him to move.

"It shows how much heart people have they don't want to hit (him)," said neighbor Dorothy Vasquez. "Everybody knows when they come visit us, they have to watch for (him)."

Some drivers honk at him, but the sound doesn't seem to bother this jake. Others actually get out of their vehicles, and shoo him toward the side of the road. But once they get back inside their cars, he struts into the roadway again.

"That thing is notorious now," Patterson said. "It will go from one lane to the other. It's pretty bold. I've never seen anything like it. It's a unique situation. It's crazy."

The turkey actually pecks at some of the vehicles and chases them as if he's challenging them. "(He's) getting more and more gutsy," Vasquez said. "(He's) got an attitude problem."

"It's been hilarious," said neighbor Steve Andrews, who noted keeping track of the turkey's whereabouts and watching its antics has become a daily form of entertainment for the neighborhood.

Patterson estimated deputies have been called to the area about 10 times over the last few weeks by folks who are either concerned about the turkey's welfare or complaining about the nuisance he's created.

The sergeant noted there's not much the deputies have been able to do about the rogue bird because "we don't have the equipment to handle that stuff."

"We don't have a policy to just shoot wildlife because it's in the road," Patterson said.

Oakland County Animal Control attempted to capture the turkey, but was unsuccessful just as the DNR was in its efforts last week. The DNR plans to return sometime this week to once again try to catch the bird and relocate him.

Conservation Officer Brandon Kieft said the DNR doesn't normally make a habit of doing this sort of thing, but in this case, the turkey is posing a danger to itself and motorists on the heavily-traveled road.

Kieft fears some driver's going to see the turkey, hit the brakes and get rear-ended.

He described the jake's behavior as "odd."

"It's definitely not normal," Kieft said.

Perhaps the turkey's having a sexual identity crisis and this is how he's acting out.

Even though the bird is a young male, many of the neighbors think he's a hen.

As a result, some call him "Henrietta," while others call him "Nellie."

Somebody call Dr. Phil.