Sometimes bringing attention to watchable wildlife is not a good thing.
Culdesac mourns death of Rufus
By MEGAN L. PATRICK
of the Tribune
Jacques Spur's favorite fowl didn't even survive the opening day of hunting season.
Rufus, a knee-high wild turkey who made his home at the Jacques Spur Junction Cafe, was killed by a cheap shot on Saturday afternoon.
"Everybody is pretty sad around here," said Paula Heinzerling, an owner of the cafe that sits on U.S. Highway 95 near Culdesac. "(Sunday) was a tearjerker. The customers looked terrible when they heard the news."
At about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, waitress Sarah Berna was sitting in the empty cafe waiting for customers.
"I heard the shot and got up to look down the street and saw a guy wrestling with a turkey," she said. "I knew it was Rufus."
The man, who Berna said was older with a big belly, drove an older model red Chevy Blazer with Idaho plates. Berna couldn't make out the license number.
He was parked about 50 yards from the cafe across the highway, between 10 feet and 20 feet from the road near the grain towers. Rufus was still alive and fighting.
Berna said it looked like the man was trying to grab the turkey by its head, but got only feathers. Then he grabbed Rufus by one of his legs and threw him through the top hatch of the Blazer.
"He was still alive, so I hope he scratched up the inside of that Blazer," Berna said. "It was all over in about a minute."
Rufus was part of a five-bird flock that appeared in the area in October. His kin fell victim to passing traffic, and Rufus was adopted by the cafe and its neighbors.
He was known for miles as the cafe's unofficial greeter. When diners pulled into the restaurant, Rufus was right there at their vehicles to say hello.
And he was inarguably well fed.
Diners often got "turkey bags" to go, and gave Rufus their leftovers. Neighbors routinely fed him grapes, seeds and other snacks, but he didn't have a taste for broccoli or cracked corn, one neighbor said previously.
Berna called the Nez Perce County Sheriff's Office to make a report, but deputies said Monday there was no evidence a crime had been committed.
In Idaho, it's illegal to hunt from a vehicle from or across a public highway, said Mark Hill, an Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife conservation officer.
Nez Perce County doesn't have an ordinance outlining the distance hunters must remain from residential areas, Chief Deputy Guy Arnzen said.
"It's a matter of common sense and ethics," he said. "If you're shooting near a house, don't shoot at the house."
After the man drove away, Berna went to the site where Rufus was shot and found a small amount of blood, some feathers and an expired shotgun shell.
"The man was quick about it," she said. "It was obvious to me, watching, that he wanted to do it and get out of there."
Jean Ballard, who lives near the cafe and gave the handsome tom his name, said some people have said the gunman should be shot if he's found.
"I know it's hunting season, but I know we're going to miss Rufus," she said. "I hope the guy is proud of himself."
Rufus' outgoing nature could have been his downfall, Berna said.
"He was pretty habituated to humans," she said. "He probably went right up to the (man's) door."
Heinzerling said she had figured Rufus was more likely to be hit by a passing vehicle than be shot.
"We never even worried about this because he stayed so close to the houses," she said. "We didn't think someone would shoot near the homes. What he did was just mean."
Berna said she knows it's turkey season, but called the shooter's actions unethical.
"People are pretty disappointed," she said. "He was kind of a pet to some people, and a neat part of their lives. Nobody wants to see Rufus go.
"It was so close to the restaurant and the houses. It wasn't safe or sportsmanlike."
Article courtesy of the Lewiston Morning Tribune
It's the last quote that pretty much says it all. And I find the waitresses description of the man interesting, since it basically fits about 60 percent of the local male population.
Sam and I have heard and seen a flock of wild turkeys living in the tree farm across the street. But, shhhhh, don't tell anyone. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll be able to snap a photo or two. If so, I'll post them. But that's a really big if. :)
Tags: turkey, Rufus, Culdesac