When Annette Fischer took her 2013 Toyota RAV4 in for an oil change on Tuesday, the mechanics working on it found a turkey foot.
Fischer went to pay for her oil change this week and the mechanics at Northside Toyota pulled out their cell phones and showed her photos of a large bird foot, including claws — at the time they thought it was from a chicken.
The mechanics told her they found it in the car's airbox.
“They said they never find anything like that while working on a motor, they thought it was quite funny,” she said.
On the receipt, the mechanics noted, "Found a chicken foot located in customer’s airbox. Disposed chicken foot."
The mechanics also noted that her left wiper blade needed to be replaced because of streaking, but that’s probably unrelated.
Fischer’s working theory is that a weasel killed a wild turkey, and after eating some of the bird, crawled up from underneath the RAV4 and stored the foot in the airbox for a later meal.
In the summer, Fischer and her husband Stan live on a small hobby farm on the south end of St. Joseph Island.
Around their farm, the Fischers have lots of natural predators around like foxes, coyotes, bears, and weasels. Although they have chickens on their farm, they think the foot is most likely from a wild turkey.
Turkeys were artificially introduced to the Island years ago and they are quite commonly found there.
Northside Toyota said they already disposed of the foot so no further forensic investigation can be done on it, however, said Stan Fischer, based on the photos and his own experience — besides farming, he’s worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry — it looks to be from a turkey.
An airbox is an hollow chamber that's part of a vehicle's air intake.
Fischer said that the intake to the RAV4's airbox is about two inches in diameter and he thinks the only predator in his area that could fit through there with a turkey foot is a weasel.
Stan has had a few experiences with animals getting into vehicles on St. Joseph Island.
“I was leaving on vacation one time and I heard this squeaking under the hood of my pickup truck…. I placed two mousetraps on the spare battery box and by the time I got to Pancake Bay I had caught two mice, one in each trap,” he said.
Another time he borrowed a friend’s car and a mouse nest caught fire while he was driving.
“If you live in the bush or the country, you just put up with the animals,” he said.
The Fischers said that they see weasels occasionally on their farm.
“A weasel is such a tough killer. Years ago we had a weasel kill a turkey. It grabbed it by the neck and went through the skin and the main veins and the turkey bled to death. Quite often a weasel will just suck the blood then come back for the dead animal later,” said he said.
Stan Fischer guesses something like that must have happened in the two months since the RAV4's last oil change and the weasel must have stashed the turkey foot in the RAV4 for later.
“If they don’t hide it, something else could get it before they eat it. It’s pretty common for a wild animal to stash food,” he said.
Any explanation to what happened is only a guess.
“I still find it hard to imagine even a weasel went through that airbox,” said Annette Fischer. “I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s really a mystery.”