14 January 2010

Two Canadians held hostage by turkey

Every time we started the ignition, it put it's head under the wheel well of the car or stood right in front of the car. We were trapped.

Yup, my companion and I held hostage for thirty minutes early January in St.Catharines, Ontario, while on our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We were driving down Lakeshore passing through a subdivision just before the canal when my friend spotted a giant bird and exclaimed he thought he'd just seen a wild turkey by the side if the road. I told him to turn around, I wanted to take pictures. That turned out to be a mistake.

We unsuspecting tourists made our approach toward Lakeshore from a quiet side street so we could pull over along the vast front yard of a bungalow where we'd first spotted the turkey. Even though the bird stood at least thirty metres away with its back to the car, it turned around and charged us as soon as we slowed down.

It was enormous and charging like an angry elelphant. Once it got close, it just halted and cosied up to the car like the vehicle was it's long lost friend. It kept gobbling except it didn't sound like a gobble, more like a purr.

Actually, a listen to a surprisingly wide ranging playlist of turkey sounds found on the National Wild Turkey Federation website revealed that turkeys do emit a sound called a "purr", expressing contenment. We were indeed being purred at. Or the car was.

Once we had all the photos and movies we wanted taken from the safety of our car (because we know turkey to be aggressive) our fifty pound-ish birdie friend refused to let us go.

Try as we might, we could not get the turkey to budge. We realised that the way it had charged at us and the excitement the bird displayed every time we started the car that the turkey was used to cars and probably seeking the heat from the engine on the very cold day. It was 15 below celcius in St.Catharines that day. After fifteen minutes we got fed up and decided to try to frighten the animal away.

My friend got out and made big movements and screamed loudly like they tell you to do when you're attacked by a bear. The turkey backed up but never turned it's back on him. It could have made a run for it but didn't. I didn't much like that. My friend seemed to think he'd frightened the beast away though and he turned around. As soon as he had his back on the animal, it went for him and I screamed from inside the car "Don't turn your back on it! Don't turn your back on it!" He barely made it back into the car.

We felt like complete idiots and started wondering whether the cars slowing down along Lakeshore were slowing down for the turkey or to mock the tourists trapped by the turkey. We got our answer when we called animal control.

Animal control informed us they'd been aware of the turkey for one month now. "So," my friend told animal control "I need you to come and trap it". I cried "No! we just need them to come and shoo the turkey." Which he what he meant really.

Animal control told us the law forbids them from moving an animal who isn't in distress or a threat to the population. But they told us they were sending somebody right away.

We did not wait for animal control to turn up. We called them later from a safe distance and explained another couple in a silver Jetta had pulled right over in front of us and the turkey took them on. After a couple of minutes they tried to get away but the turkey wasn't having any of it. Unless they ran the turkey over, we were pretty sure they'd still there by the time animal control showed up.

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