Nothing but net

Town turkey escapes from latest capture attempt

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The town’s turkey has left egg on the faces of animal control officers and Mayor Joseph Polisena yet again.

The bird, affectionately named Turk Key by a short-lived yet extremely popular satirical Facebook page, was a member of the “Three Amigos,” a rafter of turkeys that lived in the center of town for quite some time. In August, two of his cohorts were captured by animal control officers and relocated to Snake Den Park. However, Turk Key made a well-publicized and great escape and has been on the lam ever since.

He’s become something of a local celebrity for some, and a white whale for animal control and the mayor. Multiple attempts to catch the fugitive have been unsuccessful.

Last Friday, an early morning sting operation was planned to capture the outlaw and a “big gun” was brought out to get the job done. Earl Newman from the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA) joined forces with Larry Marinelli of the Johnston Department of Public Works and animal control officer Richard Starnino. They had a secret weapon, a net gun on loan from East Providence, that could capture the turkey without harming it.

The team had been informed that the bird was in the Stop & Shop plaza on Atwood Avenue. After a brief meeting in Mayor Polisena’s office, a decision was made to use Newman’s RISPCA truck to track down the bird, as Turk now seems to recognize (and trot away from) the town’s animal control truck.

Accompanied by about a half dozen reporters, the entourage made their way to the plaza, and Turk was quickly found resting by the front door of the Hei Place restaurant. The plan of attack was then set into motion.

The team pulled the RISPCA truck no more than 10 feet away from the bird, who made no motion to run. The passenger window was rolled down, the net gun was aimed, and then…nothing. The net gun failed to fire.

Adding insult to injury, Turk then strutted his stuff right in front of the mayor before heading towards Starbucks and Hartford Avenue. A chase down the center of Atwood Avenue then ensued. But Turk eventually took to the air, flew under the Route 6 bridges and then into the woods behind the Crossroad Commons Plaza, where he disappeared.

“I’ve got about $1,300,000 in new business since I took over 12 years ago, no tax increases in three years, but I just can’t believe this turkey,” said Polisena. “He’s like a splinter in my eye. He’s become my frenemy. I don’t want to see anything happen to him, but he’s making it so difficult.”

Some have questioned the plan to capture the bird, saying to leave it alone and let nature take its course. Others fully support the plan to move the bird, as it could be a hazard, especially as it frequently crisscrosses Hartford and Atwood Avenues. Polisena has made the case that he doesn’t want to see a person or the bird harmed in a traffic accident and is determined to have Turk safely captured and moved to Snake Den.

The months long affair, however, has been a strain on the mayor, even taking a toll on his upcoming holiday plans.

“I’ve told my wife at least ten times, do not serve turkey for Thanksgiving,” said Polisena. “I said we can have chicken, we can have lasagna, just don’t serve turkey on Thanksgiving, anything but turkey.”

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