Wild turkeys have earned a reputation as a bit of a menace in many Massachusetts cities and suburbs, attacking pedestrians, pecking at police vehicles, and triggering frantic phone calls to the police or the state.
But not in Reading, where a fowl with a limp has become a minor celebrity. Hobbling around for months, the bird has received a warm reception. Some say its mere presence provides a much-needed break from national politics and town squabbling.
So what if the turkey tries to chase down cars and stages standoffs from atop mail trucks? People still love “Limpy the Town Turkey.”
“Everyone has started rallying around him, saying let’s make him a celebrity,” said Cheryl Fenton, who moved to Reading recently. “Very rarely do we have a chance to gravitate toward something and personify it into something that is good and community-based and fun.”
It’s not clear who came up with the bird’s name, but it was bestowed upon the feathered visitor because of its Keyser Söze strut.
Since the turkey’s arrival, it’s slowly taken on the role of hometown hero. Unlike its brethren, any negative talk about this particular bird seems to mostly have been tabled.
Interest in Limpy has intensified so much in recent days that branding around the bird has begun. Thursday morning, resident Kristen Lachance created a Facebook page for the turkey, called “Limpy the Town Turkey.”
Within 24 hours, more than 650 people had joined the group, flooding the page with dozens and dozens of pictures, videos, and comments about their own Limpy sightings from all around town.
“I just can’t even believe it’s only been a day and we have so many people” who have joined, she said. “It’s been a nice break from politics and drama. It’s been refreshing for people . . . it’s been a nice change of pace.”
Reading resident and graphic designer Lianne Stoddard saw the Facebook group and decided to join. Then she cooked up an official emblem, an image of Limpy with his name and “The Town Turkey” circled around it.
“It’s nice to have something fun for everybody to talk about, just because, you know — the world,” she said. “I just thought, ‘Oh, maybe they will put [the image] on the banner on the Facebook page.”
When resident Johnny Medina saw the logo, he took it one step further.
“My wife saw the [Facebook] page and had me join. I have a small online T-shirt business and saw the excitement behind the page so I offered to make T-shirts for those who wanted it,” he said in an e-mail to the Globe.
He was flooded with requests almost immediately. Some of the proceeds from sales will go to a local charity or the Reading food pantry, organizers said.
There’s even been talk about hosting a Limpy 5K race or Art Festival of some kind, and making bumper stickers and decals.
By Friday evening, Limpy’s good name had spread so far that even Governor Charlie Baker’s office weighed in, saying the bird would be a good candidate for a gubernatorial pardon ahead of Thanksgiving — though it would require the approval of the Governor’s Council first.
“Limpy the Turkey has extensive experience as a member of his local wild fowl community, which makes him well qualified for a pardon,” Maura Driscoll, Baker’s deputy press secretary, said in a statement. “Governor Baker is pleased to submit his name for consideration.”
As for the gait that has led to the bird’s celebrity, MassWildlife turkey biologist Dave Scarpitti said in an e-mail that Limpy’s limp “does not appear to be a serious injury at all.”
“Wildlife can endure a lot of hardship; capture of turkeys even when seriously injured . . . is extremely difficult,” he said. “People need to stop feeding it or it will continue to be a hazard on the streets and roadways.”
A spokesman for the Reading Police Department said Friday that officers have fielded multiple calls about Limpy overtaking traffic lanes in recent weeks.
But efforts to contain the turkey, which have included the help of the town’s Animal Control officials, have been unsuccessful. So for now, Limpy is a free bird.
Judging by the reactions coming in by the minute from residents on Facebook, it seems they’d prefer it stay that way.
“It’s just a common thing that everyone is watching and doing,” said Stoddard, the graphic designer. “I just think it’s fun.”