BROOKLINE — A police chase through backyards Tuesday netted a tom turkey believed to be one of a trio that has been terrorizing residents and mail carriers in recent months.
Armed with nets, police responded to the Aspinwall Hill neighborhood shortly after 6 a.m. after a woman reported that she had been attacked by a turkey. The neighborhood is where turkeys have attacked children on their way to school and forced some mail carriers inside homes on their routes.
Angry turkeys have tried to peck through a storm door window. One neighbor said he has had to fend off the birds with an umbrella during a siege that he labeled “a nightmare.”
The captured turkey was taken to Tufts University veterinary school in Grafton. It had to be euthanized because of a broken wing suffered in the capture, said Alan Borgal, director of law enforcement for the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Though two of the birds are still at large, wildlife specialists and police hope that removing one of them will cause the others to mellow out, defusing the gang mentality that has existed in the neighborhood.
Officers headed to Tappan Street Tuesday and set up a sort of police stakeout until two turkeys were spotted, Sergeant Bobby Murphy said. At first the birds got away, but about three hours later police chased one of the birds through several backyards before netting the turkey near the rear of a home along Tappan Street. “They are hard to catch,” Murphy said.
Residents in Aspinwall Hill, which is located near Brookline High School, have been complaining about the three male turkeys in recent months. The neighbors met with Police Chief Daniel O’Leary at Brookline’s Public Safety Building in December, and the chief pledged to try to address the situation. One of the yards that police chased the turkeys through Tuesday belonged to Petra Bignami, who said she has been afraid to take her 10-month-old child outside because of the aggressive birds.
“They just attack anything that moves,” Bignami said.
Chuck Hanegan, a postal worker, said he has been attacked by the trio of aggressive turkeys before, including once last week.
Hanegan said he called police as soon as it happened, but the birds disappeared into a yard. During one attack, he said, he had to take shelter in the home of a woman on his route. Hanegan said he stood behind the glass front door to the woman’s house, but the turkeys were not deterred.
“They were pecking at the woman’s storm door,” he said.
Murphy said the turkeys have been sleeping in trees in the neighborhood and named several homes where they are frequently seen hanging out in the backyards.
Brookline’s animal control officer, Pierre Verrier, has also been attacked by turkeys in the town, but Murphy said Tuesday’s encounter was his first turkey hunt. According to the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the last native wild turkey was killed in Massachusetts 1851, but the birds were reintroduced in the 1970s.
The population is now more than 30,000, wildlife officials have said. The agency advises people not to feed the birds. The state also advises people to scare or threaten bold, aggressive turkeys by making loud noises, swatting a broom, or spraying water from a hose.
Passing through the neighborhood while police were still on scene Tuesday, Carter Carter, 25, of Brookline, said he has been attacked at least six times and has begun carrying an umbrella to defend himself against the gobblers.
“It’s been really a nightmare,” Carter said. “I’ve really whacked them as hard as I could to keep them away.”
Murphy said the birds have attacked children on their way to school and other residents in recent weeks.
Murphy said the birds were flying over fences and buildings and are surprisingly fast when they are low to the ground.
Borgal, of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said that based on his experience, removing one aggressive turkey from a group can lead to fewer shows of aggression by the remaining birds. He said he encountered a similar case in Wellesley several years ago in which one bird was caught, and the others stopped being aggressive toward people.
Murphy said police are hoping the other turkeys will now be less aggressive. But if not, he said, police would be back to catch them, as well.