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Charm Gone, Town Kicks Out Free-Ranging Turkeys

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Charm Gone, Town Kicks Out Free-Ranging Turkeys

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Charm Gone, Town Kicks Out Free-Ranging Turkeys

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

La Conner Washington on the Puget Sound has a turkey problem. A pair of wild turkeys strutted into the small town six years ago and multiplied. The flock wanders between the Catholic Church and City Hall. But now some in town have lost their taste for these fowl. And the town council says the birds have to go. Amelia Templeton reports.

AMELIA TEMPLETON: When the first Tom and hen showed up in the spring of 2004, they became instant celebrities. Lynn Moore remembers the day they crossed the street and settled in her yard.

Ms. LYNN MOORE: They would sit together on the back of the house and groom each other. I mean, you could tell they were just a happy pair.

TEMPLETON: Soon there were chicks. Lynn and her husband Bud kept a record of each birth and death. The proud turkey pair produced 15 children and grandchildren.

(Soundbite of gobbling turkey)

TEMPLETON: Bud's a retired Air Force pilot. He loves watching the 20-pound birds struggle to take flight.

Mr. BUD MOORE: They sound to me like helicopters taking off. I spent a little time in Vietnam and it always gave me sort of a chuckle to hear that sound.

TEMPLETON: To the delight of the La Conner chamber of commerce, the turkeys attracted tourists. The town council banned hunting and the mayor declared the turkeys the official town birds. In the mating season, the males puff up their feathers, fan their tails and stop traffic. They also fight. And that's where the trouble began.

Ms. SUE PERRY: If there were wild pigs running loose in town tearing up everybody's garden and digging big holes, we would've had a barbeque the first weekend.

TEMPLETON: That's Sue Perry. She says the turkeys tear up her rhododendrons. They've destroyed a rock wall. And they leave behind...

Ms. PERRY: Tarry plops. It's wonderful to invite guests for dinner and they get out of the car and step in it.

TEMPLETON: The new mayor worried about sanitation. And this summer the town council voted to remove the flock and put Bill Stokes in charge of catching the birds. He built a trap out of blue fishing net and set it up underneath the fir trees where the turkeys roost.

(Soundbite of whistling)

TEMPLETON: And he baited it with grain. If a turkey wanders in, Stokes pulls a cord and closes the net. He's caught several so far. But fear not. These turkeys are still under the mayor's protection and won't end up on anyone's Thanksgiving table. They're being sent into early retirement on a Christmas tree farm a few hours away.

(Soundbite of whistling)

TEMPLETON: For NPR News, I'm Amelia Templeton.

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