Lieutenant Ernie Shelby of the Commerce Police Department has been with the department for 10 years and said this was his first turkey call.
COMMERCE— It’s not everyday as a dispatcher or a police officer that you receive a call about a wild turkey on the mayor’s rooftop.
On Tuesday afternoon, Lieutenant Ernie Shelby of the Commerce Police Department received a call from Miami dispatch that two wild turkeys were running loose in town.
He has been with the department for 10 years and said this was his first turkey call.
“It’s not something you run into everyday,” Shelby said jokingly. “We seem to get weird animal calls here all of the time but that was the first.”
Shelby said he had to have the dispatcher repeat the call because he started laughing.
“The first call came out that on South Quincy, we had full-size turkeys on top of houses,” Shelby said. “Of course, me and Chief (Ray) Horn started laughing a little bit. I composed myself and said ‘Miami, could you repeat that? Did you say 405 turkeys?’ She said yes, affirmative.”
Valerie Ann Bowers-Barger of Miami PD was the dispatcher on the call. She said an individual had called about a turkey in their yard and on the neighbor’s roof, which turned out to be Commerce Mayor Michael Hart’s house.
“We take a lot of animal calls but that was the first turkey on a roof call that I’ve received in 23 years,” Barger said.
Shelby, Horn and animal control arrived to the turkey scene. He said they were good sized adults, weighing at least 15 pounds each. One large turkey was on the mayor’s rooftop and the second turkey was in a tree.
“Sure enough, it was a turkey on top of the mayor’s house,” Shelby said laughing. “He was just pacing back and forth on his house. The other one up in the tree was gobbling at us. Apparently these turkeys, from what I’m hearing, have been making realms around town.”
Shelby said they stood for a while contemplating how to get the turkeys down.
“We were wondering what to do with them and how to get them down without hurting them,” Shelby said. “Finally, the one on the mayor’s house, he just took off and flew away. The other one stayed in the tree for a while and we tried figuring out what to do with him and he flew to a few other trees and then flew away.”
Shelby said the two turkeys stick together and if he had to name them, he would call them Thelma and Louise.
“I’m guessing they met somewhere in the middle because I got video of them at someone’s house,” Shelby said. “They were in their backyard over by where we found them. Everyone here in town has seen the two turkeys together everywhere.”
As a joke, Shelby posted photos of the turkeys on his Facebook page and said “Only in Commerce.” Several people started commenting on the post saying they spotted the turkeys around town, as well.
A.J. Alsbaugh posted a video of one of the turkeys running loose along a fence and Janet Trease commented they were in her yard earlier that day.
“I let the mayor know there was a turkey on top of his house and he got a good laugh out of that,” Shelby said.
Hart jokingly commented on the Facebook post, “Ernie we took a vote at my house, and our new House Bird is the turkey! gobble, gobble!”
Barger said one time she received a call regarding a long horned cow running down Steve Owens and Main St.
“We’ve had different animals throughout the years, but this is definitely the first time I’ve had a turkey call,” said Barger. “Calls like that kind of lighten up the day a bit and take away from all of the mean, hateful things we see.”
According to Shelby, he has received several weird animal calls from dispatch in his 10 years. A few he mentioned were miniature horses, a bicycle wreck caused by chickens, geese blocking traffic and suicidal squirrels on power lines.
“A majority of our power outages in town are from squirrels,” Shelby said. “Every time we have a power outage, we just drive around town looking for a smoking squirrel. Just about any animal you can name, we’ve dealt with over here.”
Shelby said the turkeys have become the city’s unofficial mascots. On Friday morning, Shelby said a person had spotted the turkeys, who are still trotting large around town.
“I guess since we didn’t catch them, the turkeys will have to go under unsolved or on the loose,” Shelby said.
Kimberly W. Barker is a staff writer for the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MiamiNews_hound.