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Wild turkeys in Brookline: Bring out the broomsticks

At this time of year, the story sounds less like a serious news report and more like a tale of Thanksgiving-dinner revenge: In Brookline, a roving band of wild turkeys is terrorizing residents, stalking some as they walk down the street and ambushing others as they try to exit their cars. They’re pecking backsides, scratching necks, and flapping powerful wings in the faces of passersby.

For those whose primary experience with the grand bird is when it's sliced up on a plate, the problem may sound funny. And to those living in rural areas who have found ways to peacefully coexist with wild turkeys for years, the problem may sound overblown. But to residents of Brookline, where the presence of roughly two dozen 3- to 4-foot-tall birds is a relatively new phenomenon, the menace is anything but humorous or normal. Over the past few months, the number of encounters with the increasingly brazen birds ­­— not to mention calls to public safety officials — has risen.


According to the state agency MassWildlife, trapping and relocating the turkeys would be impractical: The best trapping methods aren't suited for urban and suburban areas, and relocated turkeys often return or find new human populations to annoy. The better option, then, is to teach humans how best to deal with the birds. Brookline officials should get to work educating the town's residents about best anti-turkey practices, which are available on MassWildlife's website.

The first step should be to point out the obvious: Getting up close to the birds to snap photos for Facebook and Instagram only increases the risk of attacks. Second, residents must make concerted efforts to clean up food scraps near compost piles, keep the area around bird feeders clean, protect gardens, secure lids on all trash bins, and, most importantly, to not feed the birds. Finally, MassWildlife encourages humans to take steps to scare the turkeys with loud noises, hoses, and broomsticks. It turns out that the more reasons humans give turkeys to be scared of us, the less reason we have to be scared of them.