A new turkey takes up residence in Waynesville

By DeeAnna Haney | Oct 16, 2013

A neighborhood in east Waynesville has a new resident that doesn't seem to be leaving any time soon. A lone hen turkey, named Ruby by a local business owner, can be found wandering around the yards and businesses located on the old Asheville highway.

This isn't the first time a feathered friend has taken up residence in the area. In January 2011, a wild turkey that affectionately came to be known to locals by many names, including  'Sir Gobbles,' adopted the stretch of road as its home.

The turkey was adored by most residents, business owners and tourists in the area and quickly developed a widespread fan following. Someone even created a Facebook page where he was called Tom Gobbles.

He lived in the area for about a year until his habits of pecking and chasing cars became a safety concern. After several failed attempts to catch and relocate him, the feathered icon met his ill-fated end.

Haywood County Animal Control, working in conjunction with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Department, were unable to tranquilize the turkey as the darts wouldn't penetrate its heavy feathered exterior, so the animal was taken down early one Wednesday morning. Public outcry ensued, and the county's nine-member animal services advisory committee was asked to suggest county policies to address future situations.

Shortly after the committee was formed, however, the decision was made to turn over all wild animal issues over to the Wildlife Resources Commission, said Haywood County Animal Services Director Jean Hazzard.

The means the town's newest turkey resident will be in the hands of the state if complaints crop up.

The new rogue turkey appeared in the neighborhood sometime in August. A bit smaller than the beloved Tom Gobbles, Ruby struts around the yards of residences and the plaza across the street.

On Friday morning, it was found standing in the doorway of RollsRite Bicycles Sales Service & Repair shop, gobbling loudly at the glass door. John Mudge, owner of the bicycle shop, said Ruby seems to be more careful crossing the street than the previous turkey was. However, he worries for its safety

"Cars still slam on their brakes when it gets in the middle of the road. Mine and everybody else's concern is that tragedy will come to it. Sooner or later it's going to get run over or they are going to come shoot it," Mudge said.

Linda Van Cleave, owner of Scooter Boys beside the bicycle shop, said the turkey often roosts in the mulch in front of her store and stares at its reflection in the window. It even wanders into her store sometimes.

Both Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed and Hazzard said they haven't heard any complaints about the turkey yet.

"It's not been acting aggressive toward anyone or any motor vehicles. The difference might be that this one is a hen instead of a tom," said Hollingsed.

But even if it does become aggressive, it will be out of Hazzard's hands.

"Animal services will not be responding to any wildlife calls," she said.

She said that the best way to avoid a repeat of the former turkey's fate, residents and business owners should remember to not feed the new turkey, or any other wild animal.

"They lose their fear and they will come right up to the people. But when an animal starts causing a public safety issue or causes property damage then it has to be addressed," Hazzard said.

Erin Patton, co-owner of Kaninis, a popular lunch stop in the area, said she's seen the new turkey several times.

"We love the new turkey. She is definitely not as wild as the old turkey. She is much calmer, but she has taken to running across the road lately,” Patton said.

She's even heard customers laughing at the fact that a new turkey has shown up in the same area.

Linda Ford Rakes, who lives in the area, was delighted to see a new turkey return to her neighborhood.

"I so enjoy watching for the turkey and finding him or her. It gives me joy and I sincerely hope nobody removes the turkey!" she said in a Facebook message.

VanCleave has been feeding the turkey with plans to capture it and take it to her home near Balsam, where she believes it will be safe.

"I want to take it before it gets hit by a car," she said.