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Plan afoot to relocate Matt mascot
Turkey WEB 2
In addition to directing traffic on the first day of school last month at Matt Elementary, a Forsyth County Sheriff's deputy also encountered a wild turkey. The bird, known as Turkey Lurkey or Matty, has become the unofficial mascot of the school after roaming the campus for years. Worried for his safety, however, officials have decided to relocate the turkey to a nearby family farm. - photo by Jennifer Sami

Matt Elementary students won't have a turkey for Thanksgiving this year.

Well, at least not as a school pet or mascot.

That's the hope of Forsyth County's special services division, which handles animal control. After mounting parent complaints, the unit is working to remove a turkey that has roamed the campus of the school in western Forsyth for several years.

Turkey Lurkey, aka Matt and/or Matty the Turkey, has become Matt's unofficial school mascot.

Many parents have said their children get excited when they spot the turkey on their way to class.

"A lot of people at the school enjoy watching him," said Jill Pilcher, parent of a Matt Elementary student. "Kids say he's their favorite thing about school."

But in the end, safety prevailed and traps were placed Tuesday as part of the first effort to capture the bird.

"Basically what we're trying to do is capture it and relocate it to a location away from the children," said Lt. David Waters, commander of the special service section. "He's somewhat between domestic and wild.

"We can walk fairly close to him, but when we get probably within 20 feet, he runs."

It may seem unusual to have a somewhat domesticated wild turkey hanging around a school, but local turkey caller Danny Harp said it's more common than most people realize.

"All those woods that have been cut down and turned into parking lots ... we're running them out," he said. "But they're adapting to our living very well and they're living just like a regular tame bird."

Harp said anyone trying to catch the turkey is in for a tough job.

"They're just too smart and too fast," he said. "You just can't catch them, and if you can, you need to be in the Olympics."

Harp's advice was to use corn or wheat to entice the bird, then come up with a trap.

Waters said if the traps don't work, the next step is to try a large net.

"We've just started trying to capture it and we may have to try several different things before we actually catch it," he said. "We just have to exhaust all means."

Though she has grown fond of Lurkey Turkey, Matt Elementary Principal Charlley Stalder said she supports "this move to not only protect the wild turkey from possible dangerous traffic conditions, but also for the best interest of our students, parents and staff."

"A parent with a 25-acre farm has volunteered to adopt the wild turkey," she said.

Once captured, the turkey will be going to Jackie Scroggs, who has offered to give it a home with Tom and Tullula, her other two turkeys.

Scroggs said she made the arrangement with animal control after dropping off her son earlier this week at the school. Told by officers that the turkey would go to a safe environment, she wanted to do more.

"We see her every morning and every evening going to and from school, and her safety is just important and No. 1," Scroggs said.

"I can provide that for her and I just want to make sure she gets to a safe place.

"She doesn't know she's not in the wild. She thinks she is. That's just her natural environment now, cars and doughnuts."
Scroggs, a mother of four boys ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to college, said the bird is "just such a huge thing at the school."

"They've named it, they've sang little songs about the turkey," she said. "It's something that makes them unique and stand apart from other schools, and they're excited about that.

"When the turkey comes, we want to do a blog page so that everybody can keep up with her."