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Turkey turns table on officers

This is a good time of year for all smart turkeys to stay in hiding. Route 7 during morning rush hour ... not the best place to hide.

Nobody must have mentioned Thanksgiving to the turkey that was hanging out in Lansdowne last week.

“He’s either really smart” – to be able to take on a flock of Animal Control officers and sheriff’s deputies, to the glee of onlookers – “or really stupid,” said Virginia Newsome, who responded to the call on Nov. 12.

Newsome, an Animal Control officer, tells the story, breathless from laughter.

At about 9:30 a.m., Animal Control got a phone call from the Sheriff’s Office about a turkey chasing cars. This wild turkey is one of a family known to live in that area.

“For some reason unbeknown to me,” Newsome said, “this turkey has an attraction to vehicles.”

When she got there, it was pecking at a sheriff’s deputy’s car, looking at the deputy barricaded inside.

Newsome chased it over toward Janelia Farm Boulevard. The deputy left. Newsome got in her car. Mission accomplished.

Or not.

“I started to pull away,” she said, “and it was like a slow-motion part of a movie where my turkey boyfriend came running back to me. He was booking it, like the Roadrunner. He was just running as fast as he could toward my truck. I’m thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’ Before I knew it, he was in front of my truck.”
The turkey started pecking at her door and looking in the window.

“People were stopping to help,” she said. “Nobody wanted to hit him. We were afraid he was going to cause an accident.”

The sheriff’s deputies came back. Another Animal Control officer also came to help – Lisa Shaw, who had chased it into a field a few days earlier.

Under Virginia law, the officers cannot relocate wildlife without a permit – usually given for rehabilitated sick or injured animals – so the officers had few options other than to chase it back into the field to keep it away from the road.

Newsome and Shaw decided on Plan B and took out a net.

“He took one look at the net and jumped on top of my truck,” Newsome said. “Now he’s king of the mountain on top of my truck. He was doing this strut turkeys do.”

The turkey – all 20 pounds or so of it – stood pecking at the strobe light and fluffing out its feathers.

“He’s quite a beautiful specimen of our native turkeys,” Newsome said. “Really full plumage. He’s just stunning to look at.”

This was no time to admire plumage, however, as traffic backed up. Time for Plan C.

“I basically baited him using my truck,” Newsome said.

As the sheriff’s deputies stopped traffic, she led the turkey to Janelia Farm Boulevard and into a field.

It followed. Fast.

“He just knew that his lovely white truck with Animal Control logos all over it was leaving and he didn’t want it to leave. He was going as fast as his little legs would carry him.”

After chasing it into the field, they took off, leaving it behind.

“I was driving away as fast as I could,” Newsome said.

Jeanne Girolami, of Bluemont, was one of the onlookers.

“It was hilarious,” Girolami said. “People were just laughing and taking pictures.”

The Animal Control officers were every bit as amused.

“It was a really fun call,” Newsome said. “I truly hope he does not make it back to Route 7, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes back. ... I’ll be sure to be there next time my turkey friend comes back, to escort him back to the field where he belongs.”

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