Thanksgiving is never a particularly happy time for turkeys, but this year, a senseless act of violence claimed the life of one beloved New Braunfels fowl.
A woman eating lunch outside on November 21 saw two men in Landa Park, one of whom “grabbed the turkey by the neck, shook it around and tossed it into a wading pool,” San Antonio Express-News ace crime reporter Eva Ruth Moravec wrote. “The men were laughing and taking pictures of the bird,” Game Warden Brent Satsky told Moravec.
The turkey was found dead in the park the next day, likely from injuries sustained in the attack, though, Moravec notes, a necropsy was not conducted on the bird.
On the day of the attack, Satsky found the men at the Comal County Courthouse, where they were doing construction work, Moravec reported. Satsky cited Ernesto Zavala Cerna, a 53-year-old San Antonio man, for “illegal possession of a live game bird” and then arrested him on an outstanding warrant. When asked by Satsky if he had intended to make a Thanksgiving meal out of the bird, Cerna said no.
The wild turkey had adopted the park as its home and would fraternize with the local ducks and geese, Moravec wrote. New Braunfelsers did not take the death lightly.
San Antonio Express-News columnist Roy Bragg devoted his Friday column to eulogizing the bird. “The iconoclastic fowl, first noticed in July, died as it lived — in a park, surrounded by tourists, ducks and geese,” he wrote.
The turkey seemed to feel at home among the other birds. “He walked all over the place with the ducks. I don’t know if he even knew he was a turkey,” Robin Kunkel, city recreation manager, told Bragg.
Bragg was personally acquainted with the turkey, having profiled the bird on October 11. The turkey, who appeared in the park in July, perhaps driven there by the drought, was a big one. “Put in holiday dining terms, the Landa Park turkey looks as though it could feed 10 people,” Bragg wrote.
Turkeys are social creatures, but it is uncommon to see them living in urban areas, according to Bragg. “We were just driving by and I said, ‘Is that a turkey?’ I’ve never seen a turkey in a park,” Jessica Taylor, a passer-by, told Bragg. But the steady diet of bread, fruity cereal, and chips that park visitors offered up probably made the park an appetizing home.
As New Braunfels mourns the passing of its beloved turkey, Ghost of the Landa Park Turkey popped up on Facebook and now has more than 230 fans. @LandaParkTurkey, who perhaps employed the same social media consultant as the famed @BronxZoosCobra, has maintained an active Twitter presence since late October, tweeting Thursday “The rumors of my death have not been greatly exaggerated.”