For six months, Rufus the wild turkey beguiled area residents and served as unofficial greeter, pet and tourist attraction at the Jacques Spur Junction Cafe. But someone decided to turn him into dinner on the opening day of turkey hunting season Saturday.
"I heard the shot and got up to look down the street and saw a guy wrestling with a turkey," Sarah Berna, a waitress at the northern Idaho cafe, told the Lewiston Tribune. "I knew it was Rufus."
Berna said the hunter was an older man who drove an older model Chevy Blazer with Idaho plates, parked about 50 yards from the cafe in Culdesac, about 10 miles east of Lewiston. Rufus put up a fight, Berna said, even as he was grabbed by a leg and thrown through the top hatch of the Blazer.
"He was still alive, so I hope he scratched up the inside of that Blazer," Berna said. "It was all over in about a minute."
Berna called authorities, but Nez Perce County sheriff's deputies said there was no evidence a crime had been committed.
Rufus will be remembered.
"Everybody is pretty sad around here," said Paula Heinzerling, an owner of the cafe. "The customers looked terrible when they heard the news."
Rufus was the last member of a five-bird flock that appeared in the area in October, eating grain that blew off semi trucks. He eventually discovered that food was easier to come by in the parking lot of the cafe.
Rufus' pluck and boldness carried him through Thanksgiving as diners feasted on turkey while watching Rufus in the parking lot. He eventually started walking up to the car doors to look inside, and restaurant patrons responded by getting "turkey bags" for Rufus when they left.
Rufus, however, was a discriminating eater, turning down broccoli and cracked corn, but accepting grapes, sunflower seeds and leaves.
"I know it's hunting season, but I know we're going to miss Rufus," said Jean Ballard, who lives near the cafe and gave Rufus his name. "I hope the guy is proud of himself."