Chenoa, Ill. — DNR is investigating a turkey shoot that’s divided the small central Illinois town of Chenoa.
Several Chenoa residents claim they are upset about the decision to shoot a handful of turkeys that had become a part of the town. According to a media report, Chenoa’s mayor said that he authorized shooting the birds because they were a nuisance. But there are questions as to why a non-town employee apparently shot the birds with a handgun, in town, about a block from a local school during the middle of the day on a Saturday. Neighbors say a “Breakfast with Santa” ended about a half hour before the shooting, and parents and children were still leaving the school.
DNR Spokesman Ed Cross said questions like that are why investigators are looking into the case.
“Right now, Conservation Police Officers have been assigned to investigate the circumstances surrounding the turkeys in Chenoa,” Cross said. “Right now, it’s still in the investigative process.”
Neighbors in Chenoa say the birds may have needed to be dealt with, but likely didn’t need to be shot in someone’s front yard during the middle of the day.
Cross said DNR did issue a permit to deal with the nuisance birds, so he said the investigation will focus on what happened between the time the permit was issued and the birds were shot.
A number of residents showed up at a recent Chenoa City Council meeting to voice their concerns. The reaction ranged from anger of animal activists to outrage over a gun being shot near the middle of town in broad daylight, with a minority thankful for the turkeys’ removal.
According to residents and eyewitnesses, the incident resulted in the immediate death of two of the game birds and the mortal wounding of a third. Mayor Chris Wilder acknowledged the incident at the meeting after fielding the public’s questions and comments for approximately half an hour. The mayor, who said he acted without conferring with the city commissioners, defended both the method of removal and the method’s executor. Wilder said that the person who carried out the killing was also among the few people who lodged complaints about the birds.
“As far as the person who handled this, was he qualified? Very much so,” he said. “Some may believe that, some may not. Do I have proof in writing of his qualifications? No. I have what he tells me are his qualifications. I know the gentleman personally, he is a Chenoa resident and yes, his family was on the complaint phone calls.
“Going back to his qualifications, he was an instructor, or shall I say range master, for police departments. He was an FBI-certified sniper for four years. A range master since 2000 – 17 years qualifications. He’s been on multiple police departments.”
The Pontiac Daily Leader could not independently verify the qualifications of said individual. Wilder also asserted that the person contracted to kill the turkeys aimed his firearm, alleged by persons speaking in public comment to have been a .40-caliber handgun, “toward the turkeys, therefore the bullets went toward the dirt.”
“(Turkeys) chasing children is my biggest concern, the safety of our kids,” he said. “Many of you know I work for the school and I drive a school bus. I would never put any of your children in danger.”