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Minnesota DNR shoots Bloomington mainstay Penny the turkey

Bloomington residents are paying tribute to Penny, who had become a local celebrity
Bloomington resident Buddy Michaelson created a memorial at one of Penny's hangouts. 

Bloomington resident Buddy Michaelson created a memorial at one of Penny's hangouts. 

Penny, the wild turkey who lived near 90th Street and Penn Avenue South in Bloomington throughout the past several months, has died. 

He was shot Wednesday by an officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, a spokesperson confirmed.

Penny had consistently inhabited the area since March, local business owners said. 

"It's surprising because Penny was kind of a local celebrity, he made everyone smile," said Nancy Webb, longtime manager of Hallmark Dry Cleaners. "The only time he caused an issue was when he would block my front door, but my customers would just call me from outside ... and it was fine. It really wasn’t an issue. It was more comical than anything." 

The police department had been receiving calls multiple times per week about the turkey, alleging "aggressive" behavior, Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Mike Hartley said in September. 

Whether the turkey is acting aggressive can vary by the comfort level of the person reporting the behavior, Scott Noland, area wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told Bring Me The News in September

When turkeys stay in a particular area, it’s usually because of a food source. Over time, they can associate humans with food, growing more comfortable with them, which could lead them to approach someone, he said. 

“The bird might come up to people for a handout and the people might think it’s trying to scare them or chase them,” Noland said. “That’s why we say, don’t feed the turkeys.”

Hartley said Bloomington police officers responded to a call Monday from a gas station where someone felt unsafe with Penny the turkey approaching him. 

Bloomington police had been in conversation with the DNR about possibly relocating the turkey, and the Bloomington police department was not involved in the decision to kill the turkey, Hartley said. 

"I live blocks from 90th and Penn," Hartley said. "From all my neighbors and Bloomingtonites, I know about their love of the turkey. But I also know, from a public safety standpoint, when you are pumping gas, you should not have to be accosted by a wild animal." 

The Bloomington police department issued a press release earlier this fall urging people not to feed the turkey, and sent a second one Tuesday. 

“Again, we are asking the public to not feed the turkey, so we can hope to have a positive outcome with this situation," Hartley said in the statement. 

Bloomington residents have expressed dismay on social media. A popular community Facebook group was overflowing with tributes to Penny Wednesday evening. 

"WHAT??...They could've at least brought him somewhere and safely released him..this was totally unnecessary!" Bloomington resident Desiree Fritz commented. "People saying it got 'aggressive'... just cause it walked up to people didn't mean it got 'aggressive'... I never seen it bite anyone including myself. He was a people turkey and brought everyone joy." 

Close to 200 people have signed an online petition asking the DNR to "stop killing animals that are not a threat." 

"Penny was an ounce of happiness in a very bleak time," Sara Anderson wrote in the comments of the petition. "Seeing him/her when out running errands always put a smile on my face. Pulling over to show her to my three year old (and her asking if we could take her home) was priceless. Killing animals because they 'become a nuisance' is sickening."

Webb said she regularly had visitors at the cleaner's just to see Penny, as well as customers who took her up on her Penny-themed specials. 

"Penny actually helped some struggling businesses, whether he knows it or not," she said. 

She's holding one last special in his memory: "Bring in your comforter and get your second one cleaned for a penny." 

Penny made a mark on other local businesses, too. The local restaurant Gryopolis features a sign reading "Penn E. Turkey approved" and had been hosting a children's Penny-themed coloring contest, which it has now named a "tribute."

And when Kevan Tran reopened his restaurant Penn Lake Roast Beef after recovering from a shooting, Penny was one of the first ones in line. 

As Election Day approached, some Bloomington residents sported "Penny for President" buttons. 

"[Penny] just kind of made our whole year — everything’s been such a downer the whole year," said Bloomington resident Buddy Michaelson. "Driving past Penny was always hilarious. It just kind of brought humor to this year, something to look forward to for a lot of people." 

When Michaelson was selling his masks in Penny's neighborhood, he heard from dozens of kids who were hoping to find Penny, he said. 

Michaelson said he last saw Penny about thirty minutes before his death.

"I saw him right there, pecking grass, eating bugs, or whatever he does," he said. "I know he made a lot of people happy, that’s for sure — for a turkey."

Bloomington residents continued to pay respects for Penny Wednesday night. 

Bloomington residents continued to pay respects for Penny Wednesday night. 

Creative Color Graphics and Print Studio in Bloomington created this sign for Penny. 

Creative Color Graphics and Print Studio in Bloomington created this sign for Penny. 

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