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Saturday, March 10, 2012

A week in small-town America
Posted by Jill | 7:29 AM
Monday, March 5:

Missing: One town turkey. Walks on one leg. Last seen being carried away on Pascack Road in Washington Township.

Reward: $200.

Neither wattle nor feather has been seen of the hobbled turkey — humorously nicknamed “Eileen” by locals — since Saturday morning, when two unidentified men allegedly chased down, cornered, captured and carted her away.

The injured bird has become something of a fixture in town over the past two years, and her disappearance has sparked a hunt for her abductors. The fowl first endeared herself to residents when she was spotted hanging out on a grassy area across the street from 5 Star Gas.

Animal control officials believe Eileen’s leg never properly healed, becoming calcified as a result. They have tried to capture her on several occasions, but even on one leg, Eileen proved to be a formidable opponent.

In the past, her plight inspired numerous calls for help to animal control and police, and even motivated two elementary school children, who sold turkey cookies in November in hopes of raising money for an operation on the bum leg.

Now, everyone wants to know why someone would abduct the town’s beloved turkey.

There’s an investigation by local police. A $200 reward from the bird’s de facto caretaker. Signs posted all over town. And an outpouring of support from local residents — all hoping for Eileen’s safe return.

Tuesday, March 6:
Police in Washington Township received a call Tuesday morning from representatives at The Raptor Trust, where Eileen — a constant fixture around town for the last two years — was dropped off Monday morning.

The names of those individuals who brought the bird in for treatment were provided to Washington Township police, Lt. Gregg Hackbarth said.

“We spoke to the people that brought her in, and it appears they were just being good Samaritans,” Hackbarth said. “They had the bird’s best interest at hand, and when Eileen’s available to be released, the animal control warden will bring her to the animal center in Wyckoff.”

Carol Tyler, senior animal control officer at Tyco Animal Control, said Eileen’s captors acted in the turkey’s best interest.

“Whoever had her decided she needed to go there to have her leg treated by a veterinarian,” Tyler said.

Lauren Butcher, education director at The Raptor Trust, said a preliminary examination of Eileen has revealed an infection on the bird’s good leg.

“Someone was legitimately trying to help the turkey, and didn’t realize the history of this particular bird in the town where they found her,” Butcher said.

But Eileen is obviously a tough old bird, and sometimes there's no place like home. Thursday, March 8:
It has been a long, strange week for Eileen, the one-legged turkey, who was back Thursday at her usual haunt at the corner of Pascack Road and Washington Avenue.

First, calls made Saturday to Washington Township police alleged two men had snatched the beloved bird. The purported abduction sparked an intensive search for Eileen, who has become part of the town’s scenery. For the last two years, Eileen has survived despite her injury — a broken leg that has become calcified as it has healed.

The fowl was then delivered Monday by the two men to The Raptor Trust — a bird rehabilitation center in Millington — just as $2,700 was being raised for a reward seeking information leading to her safe return. Police were notified of her whereabouts Tuesday. She was examined by veterinarians Wednesday. And by Thursday, Eileen was returned to her corner, where she could be seen hopping around, pecking at the ground for nuts — immune to the roar of the passing traffic amid the ringing of the 5-Star Gas Station’s service bell.

“I’m kind of happy and I’m kind of not,” said Ruth Carrino, a township resident and former veterinarian’s technician who regularly feeds the bird. “That is a dangerous intersection, but it is what she knows. She is comfortable in that area.”

Officials at The Raptor Trust said that is exactly why Eileen was returned home. Initially, local animal control officials wanted the hobbled turkey to be placed at James McFaul Environmental Center, a wild life sanctuary in Wyckoff.

But in a statement issued Thursday, The Raptor Trust said Eileen — who was “in good weight when admitted to the Trust, and was bright, alert, well-hydrated, and in healthy feather condition” — should return to “where she has been thriving well for years.”

One town has its mascot. Now all it needs is a baseball team and an Irish pub named "Eileen's" that serves Wild Turkey at the bar. And a radio show called "Talking Turkey". Add your own turkey puns and jokes in the comments.

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Anonymous The Wifely Person said...
I just read this to my 91 year old retired veterinarian father-in-law who loved it. You see, we live in wild turkey central these days but they're not as cute as Eileen. Minnesota wild turkeys hang out at street corners, too but they wait for cars at the stop sign...then they attack the tires. Whatever you do, DON'T get outta the car!

Blogger Jill said...
There are wild turkeys by the Nathan Kline Institute in Orangeburg, NY that are shakedown artists like the ones you describe. They are mean old buzzards.