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School's turkey gets pardon for Thanksgiving
Captivity likely to follow holiday for Matt mascot
Matt the Turkey, the unofficial mascot of Matt Elementary School in western Forsyth, has avoided capture again, gaining a reprieve until at least after Thanksgiving. - photo by File photo

It didn't come from a president, but Matt the turkey has received a Thanksgiving pardon.

The unofficial Matt Elementary mascot, also known as Turkey Lurkey, Jake and Matty, has been sighted for years around the campus of the school in western Forsyth.

In September, the turkey was deemed a possible danger to the children. After an unsuccessful effort by county staff, the state Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division was called in.

Kevin Lowrey, with the department's game management office in Gainesville, recently visited the school.

He used a dart with a low dose of the tranquilizer Telazol on the bird, but a series of unusual events followed.

Telazol loses its effectiveness if there is an increase in adrenaline. After he hit the turkey with the dart, Lowrey said, a woman got out of her vehicle and started chasing the bird around, trying to take photos of it.

"Any time you're running it around, you're pushing the animal's adrenaline up and that makes the drug a lot less effective," he said. "She didn't seem to understand what I was there for."

Matt was able to make his escape. And because the department is in its busiest time of year, that freedom likely will last until at least after Thanksgiving.

Lowry said he will return with a more potent dose of the tranquilizer "before the end of the year, definitely, but not before Thanksgiving."

Matt Elementary School Principal Charlley Stalder said the students "will be thrilled" to learn their mascot can stick around through next week.

"I received a petition from a little boy who had about 50 signatures of students wanting to save the turkey," she said. "It says, 'Please sign this so we can save our school turkey.'

"They are very aware that their turkey's life is in peril."

Fifth-grader Kody Kendrix said he's seen the turkey about 20 times since the school year started.

"I just like him because he's just cool to be a mascot for our school," he said. "I call him Jake. Pretty much everybody calls him Jake or Matt, and I like Jake."

Perhaps that's fitting, since Jake is another term for a juvenile male turkey.

Kendrix said he is concerned about the turkey's future after he is caught.

Lowrey said the bird will not be killed or released in the wild, but instead appears headed for a petting zoo, farm, education center or other licensed entity.

"I would just rather it be wild and free," Kendrix said.