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Brookline cops tell neighbors they will address troublesome turkeys

Posted by Brock Parker  December 6, 2012 10:30 PM

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Karen Halvorson was walking down Tappan Street in Brookline about a month ago when she spotted three turkeys flying up against passing cars. Then she said the turkeys turned on her.

Halvorson, who is 64 and five-feet tall, said three turkeys surrounded her and the dominant turkey flew up at her head and scratched her neck, breaking the skin, when she tried to duck.

Halvorson said she didn’t know what to do, until finally a passing motorist stopped, threw open a car door and let her jump in.

“I’m not sure what would have happened to me had she not stopped,” Halvorson said.

Thursday night Halvorson and about 30 people brought their growing concerns about aggressive turkeys to a meeting at the Brookline Public Safety Building. Selectwoman Nancy Daly said the turkeys, and especially three male turkeys, have been terrorizing some residents around Aspinwall Hill in recent weeks.

Neighbors told police, town officials and a representative from the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Thursday night that the birds have been attacking cars and people and often are not scared away by loud noises or being sprayed with water.

Steve Bruno, the mailman for the Aspinwall Hill neighborhood, said his run-ins with turkeys, and the three especially aggressive birds, have been frequent.

“Probably every two weeks they come after me,” Bruno said.

While some voiced their support for protecting the birds and just trying to scare away the trouble makers, other neighbors are asked police to shoot the aggressive birds. One man in the audience even requested if he could spray-paint the problem birds so police can identify them.

Brookline Police Chief Daniel O’Leary said firing guns in the neighborhood is not an alternative, but the chief vowed the department will find a way to address the aggressive turkeys, and especially the three trouble-making tom turkeys.

“We’ll work to do something to take care of those turkeys that are the aggressive ones because they shouldn’t be going after humans,” O’Leary said.

The meeting Thursday came after Brookline Police said they’ve seen an increase in recent weeks in the number of reports of turkeys blocking streets, sidewalks and being aggressive.

Pierre Verrier, Brookline’s animal control officer, said he has also been attacked by turkeys, which ripped his pants. He said the calls about the birds have become more and more frequent recently.

“Every day for the past couple of months the calls have been coming in,” Verrier said.

David Scarpitti, and upland game bird biologist for the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said turkeys were killed off in Massachusetts in the 19th Century, but have been doing well in Massachusetts since they were re-introduced in the early 1970s. He said the turkey population is estimated at 30,000 to 35,000 statewide.

Scarpitti said as the turkey population has expanded into more urban and populated areas, more problems with aggressive behavior have been arising.

He said loud noises and water can help drive away the turkeys.

“This is not a unique situation to the town of Brookline,” Scarpitti said.

Scarpitti said that when a turkey becomes aggressive to the point in which it is contacting people, there are situations in which it is appropriate to remove them.

He said Environmental Police do have authority in some instances to lethally remove a turkey, but discharging a firearm in a populated area is not a good option. Scarpitti said in some instances the turkeys can be trapped and euthanized.

Alan Balsam, the director of public health for Brookline, said problems with turkeys have arisen before, including in 2009 when he said a couple of the birds had to be put down.

Scarpitti said anyone who encounters and aggressive turkey should call their local police and the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

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