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After a chase, Brookline cops catch troublesome turkey which has to be euthanized

Posted by Brock Parker  January 15, 2013 02:48 PM

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A police chase through Brookline backyards netted a Tom turkey Tuesday that is believed to be one of a trio that has been terrorizing residents and mailmen in recent months.

Armed with nets, police responded to the Aspinwall Hill neighborhood shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday after a woman reported she was attacked by a turkey.

The neighborhood is where the turkeys have attacked children on their way to school, and forced some mailmen inside homes on their routes. Angry turkeys have tried to peck through a storm door window and 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 where it had to be euthanized due to a broken wing suffered in the capture, police said.

Though two of the birds are still at large, wildlife experts and police are hopeful that removing one of the trio would cause the others to mellow out – defusing the gang mentality that has existed in the neighborhood.

Brookline Police Sergeant Bobby Murphy said officers headed to Tappan Street Tuesday and set up a sort of police stakeout until two turkeys were spotted.

At first the birds got away, but about three hours later police chased down one of the birds through multiple back yards before finally netting the bird to the rear of a home along Tappan Street. The second bird got away.

“They are hard to catch,” said Murphy.

Residents in the Aspinwall Hill neighborhood have been complaining about the three male turkeys attacking them in the area in recent months, and met with Brookline Police Chief Daniel O’Leary at Brookline’s Public Safety Building in December.

One of the yards that police chased the turkeys through Tuesday belonged to Petra Bignami, 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.

Postal worker Chuck Hanegan said he’s 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, Hanegan said he had to take shelter in the home of a woman on his postal route. Hanegan said he stood behind the glass front door to the woman’s house, but the turkeys weren’t deterred.

“They were pecking at the woman’s storm door,” he said.

Murphy said the turkeys have been sleeping up in the trees in the neighborhood, and named several homes where they are frequently seen hanging out in the back yards.

Brookline’s Animal Control Officer Pierre Verrier has also been attacked by turkeys in the town, but Murphy said Tuesdays encounter was his first turkey hunt.

According to the state Division of Wildlife and Fisheries, the last native wild turkey was killed in Massachusetts in 1851 but the birds were reintroduced in the 1970s

The population is now more than 30,000 wildlife officials have said.

To prevent conflict with turkeys, the state Division of Wildlife and Fisheries 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, Brookline resident Carter Carter, who is 25 years old, said he’s 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 one of the three turkeys hasn’t been spotted in a few days. The other bird, which evaded police Tuesday, was last seen around Beaconsfield and Clark roads Tuesday.

Murphy said the birds were flying over fences and buildings, and are surprisingly fast when they are low to the ground.

The Tom turkey police caught Tuesday was taken to a Tufts University veterinary facility in Grafton, but had to be euthanized because of it suffered broken wing while being captured, said Alan Borgal, the director of law enforcement for the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

Borgal said 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 towards people.

Murphy said police are hoping the other two troublesome Tom turkeys will now be less aggressive in Brookline. But if not, he said police will be back to catch them, as well.

--Brock Parker can be reached at


The caught turkey was escorted away by authorities. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

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