By Stan Maddux
MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – Police are urging motorists not to try to chase away a wild turkey hanging out from time to time in the middle of a busy Indiana intersection.
The latest sighting of the turkey at Michigan Boulevard and Johnson Road was about 7 a.m. on Jan. 4.The intersection is in Michigan City just outside the boundaries of Trail Creek, a community of about 2,000 people in the northwest part of the state.
According to police, the caller reported trying to get the turkey to move but the bird refused.
Trail Creek Town Marshal Steve Dick said numerous complaints about what he believes is the same turkey at the intersection surrounded by woods have been taken since about a week before Christmas.
He said a number of drivers have stopped in the road to veer around the turkey.
In some cases, drivers and their passengers have climbed out of vehicles in the travel lanes to try to shoo away the adult-sized bird from the roadway.
By doing so, though, Dick said drivers and their passengers are placing themselves and other motorists in danger. “Human life is certainly more valuable than the life of that turkey. Although we don’t want to minimize that turkey’s life, we certainly don’t want to see somebody get hit,” he said.
Dick said officers with both departments have responded to sightings and encounters with the bird.
According to police reports, at least one person approaching the bird felt threatened by the turkey, which has also attacked or tried to attack several vehicles.
Dick said the Indiana Department of Natural Resources was contacted last week to address the situation.
DNR spokesman Tyler Brock said a conservation officer has been out at least once but was not able to spot the turkey anywhere in the surrounding area.
In any situation like this, Brock said the plan could be anything from trapping the turkey to relocate it or have it medically examined for a possible stay in a wildlife rehabilitation center.
Brock said euthanizing a turkey is also not out of the question depending on the extent of the threat posed to public safety. “There’s a variety of options,” he said.
Brock said it’s not uncommon for a male turkey to show up at the same spot, even in the middle of a busy intersection, during the spring mating season.
He said male turkeys mark their territory and drive away other male turkeys from the area to reduce competition for mates.
Brock said vehicle attacks might be from a turkey seeing what appears to be another male turkey in his own reflection in the metal or glass. Since it’s not mating season, he wouldn’t speculate on the reason for this turkey’s behavior.
Whether the turkey is male or female is not known.
However, Brock pointed out a female turkey shouldn’t have any chicks nearby to want to protect since their eggs hatch during the summer and, by now, they would be too large for the mother to feel they were threatened by passing vehicles.
“Sometimes wildlife will do different things at different times of the year for whatever reason. It could be sick. It could be stressed. It could be just a natural instinct kicking in,” Brock said.