The residents of Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin are no strangers to wild turkeys. However, “Smoke,” a lone bird who has been a fixture in the town since spring this year, is like none other they have encountered before. The renegade turkey pursues moving vehicles, “controls” traffic flow by parking himself in the middle of the road, and even chases after children as they descend from school buses. He is also known to boldly approach residents and gobble at them, as though sharing some pertinent information.
Though the bird can be somewhat of a nuisance at times, the locals have grown to love their resident wild turkey. “Everyone gets a kick out of this turkey,” said Andrew Nowakowski. He added that those who commonly kept to themselves are forming bonds after Smoke’s arrival, using the new commonality as a springboard to camaraderie.
To demonstrate their affection, the residents recently named Smoke the town’s honorary mayor, and set up a Facebook page - “Smoked Turkey – Mayor of Ashwaubenon” – to allow the growing fan base to keep up with the bird’s antics. Some locals have even taken to wearing t-shirts that state, “I stand with Mayor Smoke.”
Ashwaubenon Public Safety Commander Randy Tews is well aware of Smoke’s popularity. The official says, “I think some folks will be sad to see him go. He’s brought a lot of smiles to people’s faces here. We’re a divided country, and here this turkey is directing traffic for folks on their way to work, and it gives them something to cheer about.”
However, he and other town officials are worried that Smoke’s rising celebrity status will result in road accidents as distracted drivers try to capture a photo or two. There is also the danger of a traffic pileup caused by drivers suddenly slamming on their brakes to avoid hitting the bird, who regularly struts around on busy roads.
But despite months of trying, all attempts to capture and relocate Smoke to a nearby wildlife sanctuary have proved unsuccessful. According to Tews, Smoke displays some serious “ninja-like moves,” making it impossible for even the most skilled animal control experts to catch the rogue turkey.
While there is no doubt Smoke will eventually be caught, one thing is for sure – this beloved turkey will never end up on the Thanksgiving dinner table! Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the millions of his cousins who will be the centerpieces of most feasts tomorrow!