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School saga ends with death of wild turkey
Big bird was popular with staff, students
Matt the Turkey, Matt Elementary School’s unofficial mascot, was found dead Saturday morning. - photo by File photo
The unofficial mascot of a northwestern Forsyth County elementary school has turned up dead, though authorities don’t suspect fowl play.

Kevin Lowrey of the Department of Natural Resource Wildlife Division said it appears Matt the Turkey, who was popular with students at Matt Elementary School, was hit by a car Saturday morning.

“That’s what happens when you domesticate wild animals,” he said. “As much as that turkey crossed that road it was bound to happen.”

Matt Principal Charlley Stalder said the school is saddened by the turkey’s passing.

“Parents and students enjoyed seeing it daily around our school,” she said. “It was nice to have a mascot that brought joy to our northern community.”

Lowrey said he told the residents who found the bird, Russ and Jill Pilcher, to freeze him until the department could figure out what to do with him.

Jill Pilcher said the turkey was discovered in an undeveloped subdivision across from the school.

“Some people saw him and got him out of the road and left him on the shoulder,” she said. “Then some other neighbors picked him up and put him behind some bushes so kids coming by wouldn’t see him.

“Then my husband went and got him. We were going to bury him.”

She said Lowrey had helped her family try to catch the turkey, so they called him after the discovery. Pilcher said the turkey is in a freezer once used for gardening.

“(Lowrey) suggested that we might preserve him if he was not damaged in order to have him mounted and put him on display,” she said.

She said she and her family had watched Matt for the past three years “since he was about the size of a chicken.”

The bird weighs about 30 pounds, Pilcher said, and his feathers are “beautiful.”

Lowrey said he’d like to find funding to have Matt, also known as Turkey Lurkey, Jake and Matty, stuffed so he could be used for educational purposes. The school could also take on the project, he suggested.

School system spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said there are no plans to have Matt mounted. She said the school would have to collect donations and a fundraiser has not been established.

The turkey was deemed a possible danger to the children in September. The DNR was called in after unsuccessful county staff efforts to catch him.

The turkey received a pardon last Thanksgiving after further efforts to catch him failed. Students also filled out a petition to save the bird.

Lowrey said he’s heard there are four turkeys living on Roper Road. Another turkey has been spotted near Vickery Creek Elementary in south Forsyth.

He said an intern last summer tried to catch the Vickery turkey to no avail.

“He gave it a run one day and it was obviously way too wild to catch that way,” he said. “But that was the only time we’d heard anything about that turkey.”

E-mail Julie Arrington at