Some Bloomington residents are mourning the death of Penny the turkey, a town mascot of sorts known to saunter into the local drycleaner, gobble up bread and French fries given to him by passersby and stubbornly block lanes of traffic.
The DNR shot Penny, a young male turkey who hung out near the intersection of 90th and Penn Avenue, on Wednesday afternoon after receiving complaints about the bird’s increasingly aggressive behavior, said Harland Hiemstra, a DNR spokesman.
Residents had been feeding Penny, Hiemstra said, which is like “issuing a death warrant” to a wild turkey because it will soon lose its natural fear of humans and can then become aggressive.
“They feed them and pretty soon they’re chasing people down the street,” he said. “You can understand … that some people might have gotten a little freaked out.”
Penny had chased and pecked a motorcyclist, he said, and was accosting people at a nearby gas station.
Some residents posted comments online wondering why Penny couldn’t have been caught and relocated. Hiemstra said the DNR doesn’t favor relocation of wildlife because it takes time and resources to catch them and the animals don’t always do well in their new location. “It’s just kind of moving the problem to someplace else,” he said.
Bloomington police had issued news releases asking people not to feed the turkey.
Penny was a favorite topic on social media, with residents frequently posting anecdotes and pictures of their latest encounter. Upon hearing of Penny’s death, many people were saddened and outraged that the DNR felt the need to shoot the animal.
Several commenters said hearing about Penny was a bright spot during the pandemic; others lamented the timing of the turkey’s death so close to Thanksgiving.
Nancy Webb, manager of Hallmark Cleaners, said Penny often walked into her shop during the summer since she kept the door open to control the temperature.
“Every morning I would hear the bell go off and it was Penny,” she said. “He would come in all the time.”
She would gently shoo him outside, she said, or throw a cracker onto the sidewalk to get him to leave.
“People are going to miss this turkey,” she said. “He kind of brought happiness and joy to everybody.”
Webb said the DNR was “lying” about Penny becoming more aggressive and said he was actually more laid back now than during the summer. She said she wished he could have gone to a sanctuary.
“They shot him in a field and he just stood there,” Webb said. “I think the DNR did not handle it correctly.”
Webb said her store was having a Penny-related special: Bring one comforter in and get a second cleaned for a penny. A nearby restaurant, Gyropolis was holding a coloring contest featuring Penny’s picture.
A memorial, a simple wooden cross with some flowers nearby, went up Wednesday near the BP gas station. Online, some people discussed having a funeral for Penny, while others said they were making Penny-themed face masks.
Hiemstra said Penny’s carcass was donated to a needy family.
Erin Adler • 612-673-1781