Wayward West Leechburg turkey has new home, new name
Meet Hot Sauce
A displaced domesticated West Leechburg turkey has a new home.
And a new name.
Meet Hot Sauce, the newest fowl resident in Gilpin.
Hot Sauce was adopted Monday by the Karpinski family of Gilpin after weeks wandering around West Leechburg — roosting on porches, wandering through yards and seemingly having nowhere to go.
“She needed a home,” said Kira Karpinski on her decision to take in Hot Sauce. “We used to have four turkeys and one of them died. My daughter was so sad — she cried for two days. Our birds are more like family members. Each has a name and they are all played with and loved daily.”
The white turkey had been nicknamed Turk by some locals living along Second Street and managed to elude capture for weeks, until last week, when resident Chris Rager corralled the turkey into a neighbor’s dog kennel using a large blanket.
Rager and her daughter reside on Second Street and diligently served as turkey babysitters to Turk — providing fresh water and food daily.
“We just wanted him to have a good home,” Rager said.
Gilpin Supervisor Linda Alworth began spreading the word that the lost turkey needed a permanent place to roost and the Karpinskis didn’t hesitate.
“This was a no-brainer for me,” Karpinski said.
Photos of the turkey cropped up on social media last week, and the mystery surrounding how and why it appeared in West Leechburg remains unsolved.
West Leechburg police Chief George Lebetz fielded several calls last week about the turkey, including reports about it roosting atop vehicles.
The turkey became a bit of a celebrity in the small borough but, due to borough ordinances prohibiting livestock, turkeys are not allowed to reside in West Leechburg, according to Lebetz.
While wild turkey sightings are quite common in West Leechburg, Hot Sauce’s bright white plumage makes it highly visible and posts on a West Leechburg Facebook group speculated on its status as a wild or domesticated turkey.
Karpinski said she is confidant that Hot Sauce is a “young adolescent female” turkey and that she was likely dropped off or discarded by someone who raised Hot Sauce from a baby.
“Some people buy these animals because they think they are little, cute and fuzzy and they don’t understand that they are livestock with different requirements than people are used to. I bet someone just couldn’t deal with it and said “Out the door you go,” said Karpinski, referring to her theory on how she thinks Hot Sauce ended up in a residential neighborhood.
Inquiries to Pounds Turkey Farm and Tunnel Hill Farm, both located in Allegheny Township, ruled out the turkey belonging to either business.
“It’s not mine. I never raised whites,” said Tunnel Hill Farm co-owner Chet Welch, referring to his turkeys on his exotic animal farm.
Rager made multiple calls to animal rescue groups and contacted Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary in Sewickly for guidance on how to care for Turk.
“I was told they would take in Turk if a home couldn’t be found locally,” Rager said. “He really likes the cat food. I was told I could feed him cat food by Hope Haven. I was even able to pet him the other day.”
Rager previously contacted the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center in Verona, but was told turkeys don’t fall into their area of expertise.
“A representative there sent me a list of farm rescue groups, but most of them were located four and five hours away and I didn’t see them being able to help Turk,” Rager said. “Keeping the turkey local was a goal.”
Rager said, as her turkey babysitting job ended Monday, she will miss the bird.
“He’s cute. He makes the cutest little noises and stuff — little chirping noises,” she said.
The Karpinskis said Hot sauce seems to be loving her new rural roost, in a large red barn she now shares with chickens, ducks, other turkeys, goats, horses and five barn cats.
“She’s awesome. I think she’s going to like it here really well,” said Harlee Karpinski, 8, of her new pet turkey. “She’s going to love being with the other turkeys and becoming a member of the family.”
Kira Karpinski said Hot Sauce will have a safe environment, and a routine.
“She will free range during the day and go into a coop with the other turkeys at night,” Karpinski said. “I think us adopting Hot Sauce was meant to be.”
Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.