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LA CONNER — The once-revered “town bird” now has a target on its feathered back.

Actually, the problem isn’t just one bird. It’s a group of feral turkeys that has roamed freely through town for several years. But the flock has grown, and it seems the bird with special status just isn’t so very special anymore.

The La Conner Town Council voted 3-1 earlier this month to thin La Conner’s roaming turkey flock to a more manageable seven birds.

Tonight, they decide how to do it.

The birds, which wandered into town more than five years ago and never left, are on the chopping block for getting into gardens, pecking at houses and leaving behind clouds of feathers and plenty of unwanted “manure.”

Former Mayor Bud Moore and wife keep a chronology of the birds — births, deaths, etc. But even Moore, who knows the exact date the turkeys showed up, is unhappy with their abundance.

There are 18 turkeys, he said, and they have dislodged bricks from the top of his daughter Lisa Hedlund’s roof and used his own yard as a toilet.

“The other morning I came out, and there were 13 turkeys in our yard,” he said.

But the birds have their fans.

“I just think they are wonderful,” said Breta Malcolm last week, as she walked past the birds on her way to a La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum board meeting.

“They chose us,” she said. “How can we kill them? I don’t understand why we would. Everybody’s domestic cats run around pooping in everybody’s yard, so why a few turkeys pooping in the yard is a big deal and a murder offense I don’t understand.”

Pro-turkey sentiment was strong last year when an out-of-town hunter was caught poaching fowl with a bow and arrow.

The turkeys were proclaimed the town birds in 2005, and an ordinance on the books was supposed to make killing them a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, after the hunting incident, the town found a hole in its contract with the county sheriff’s office left no enforcement mechanism.

The town has since made it illegal to hunt with a bow and arrow in town.

The town’s code enforcement officer could not be reached Monday to answer whether the turkeys are currently protected under the town code and how they might be dealt with.

Sending the turkeys to a farm, starting an “adopt a turkey program” and donating them to a firearms safety course were all suggested by town officials, with varying degrees of seriousness, during an Aug. 11 Town Council meeting.

Councilwoman Marilyn Johnson, who made the motion to “eliminate” all but seven birds at that meeting, said a town dinner is not on the table.