One city in Wisconsin was carried by a “rebellious” wild turkey, residents say, the bird inspired charity events and Halloween outfits, and even won a local celebrity award.
The turkey named Carl has been enchanting the locals in Kenosha since arriving more than two years ago and has had a huge following since then. A Facebook group devoted to the 2-foot turkey, with rich brown plumage, has more than 5,000 members and is inundated with reports of sightings.
Wild turkeys are not uncommon in urban areas in Kenosha and elsewhere, but Carl is best known for his lack of respect for Wisconsin highway laws, which regularly stop traffic to enthusiastically peck at car wheels.
With a sky blue head and scarlet wattle, Carl is a daily sight in the Forest Park neighborhood of west Kenosha and was a welcome distraction from the controversial Kyle Rittenhouse shooting process that divided the city. Rittenhouse was charged with manslaughter and attempted manslaughter after he shot two people and injured another while protesting against the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha in August 2020. He was found not guilty last week.
“Kenosha had a really rough year, especially with the trial,” said Lisa Hawkins. She sees Carl almost every day and started his Facebook group.
“He makes everyone smile even though he gets into traffic and disturbs and slows things up,” said Hawkins. “I think it’s pretty amazing how that turkey could be the only thing we can all leave behind and smile and laugh.” She said Carl’s rise to fame even sparked a discussion among members of the Facebook group about alternatives to eating turkey this Thanksgiving.
However, Turkey has little respect for the rule of law.
It’s like having a mascot. He could be the mascot of KenoshaPaul Merklin
“A video was recently posted of him sitting on a policeman’s car. He’s kind of a rebel, “said Hawkins.
Carl’s popularity is so great that he was named Kenoshan of the Week by Kenosha.com in September.
“He has so many fans that people take care of him,” said local resident Paul Merklin. “It’s like having a mascot. He could be the mascot of Kenosha. “
Hawkins said Carl avoided early attempts to catch him, in part because he can fly, which animal authorities can’t. According to Bird Watching Daily, turkeys can fly at up to 80 miles per hour and swim if necessary “by putting their wings tightly together, spreading their tails and kicking.”
Since arriving in Kenosha, Carl has inspired a charity drive for a wildlife hospital, and local businesses have reported increasing sales following the launch of Carl-themed products such as cakes, T-shirts and bumper stickers. Carl was honored in song by local musician Keith Pauley in the ballad of Carl the Kenosha Turkey.
“There is an outlaw walking around the town of Kenosha, on the streets and on the sidewalks, in the trees where he can sleep,” Pauley sings. “He’s an advocate of the people and an enemy of the law, the mayor wants to catch him and ship him to Bong.”
During his rise to fame, there was reportedly some discussion in local politics about catching Carl and transporting him to Richard Bong’s recreation area. The animal specialists’ inability to catch the bird ultimately made the debate moot, and Carl was left free to continue to charm local residents.
“For a lot of people, Carl seems to represent hope, he often brings smiles and laughter,” wrote Michael Nelson in Kenosha’s Happenings magazine.
“Carl’s presence and behavior seem to teach so many people that life is too short and maybe it is time to slow down and enjoy all that life has to offer.”