Flocks of aggressive wild turkeys are attacking people in Foxborough, according to local animal control officer Sue Thibedeau, who said it's such a prevalent problem that she's lost count of the number of incidents -- and the number of bad birds.
"I thought it was limited to a trio [of turkeys], but they've enlisted their friends," she said.
Thibedeau said the problem is caused by people feeding the wild birds, which makes them so comfortable around humans that they "incorporate people into their pecking order." Literally.
She said she's had calls from all over town, most recently on Mechanic Street, of turkeys running at people and pecking and kicking them.
She advises the public not to act intimidated and instead to "appear bold and intimidate the turkeys" with what she called "humane harassment." She recommended running toward the big birds, yelling at them, waving brooms or spraying them with a hose.
"It might sound nasty, but it's a kindness," she said, noting that the ultimate alternative is euthanasia. "They cannot be relocated by state law; if they're removed, it's lethally," she said.
Thibedeau has consulted with a turkey biologist from the state, who told her that the key is getting people to stop feeding wild turkeys. "That is always the root of the problem," she said.
Another option she's jokingly considered is "handing out cans of cranberry sauce" so people can brandish them and remind turkeys of what's served at Thanksgiving.
Thibedeau has been Foxborough's animal control officer for seven years and said this was the first summer she's been swamped with turkey complaints.
American turkeys almost became extinct in the 1930s, but have made a huge comeback, thanks to efforts of groups like the National Wildlife Federation, which estimates that as many as 7 million wild turkeys live in North and Central America.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.