Officials in Brookline, Massachusetts held an emergency town meeting after a series of brazen daylight attacks have left 46 injured and many others terrified to leave their homes.
According to police, the town is under siege by gangs of wild turkeys. All schools and town offices have been ordered to close until the situation has been resolved.
Police Chief Brad Lockleer said he has now given his officers the go-ahead to “kill with extreme prejudice” any turkeys they see.
Eight hundred Brookline residents attended the emergency meeting to express their mounting fear. Selectwoman Paula Weekly spoke for Aspinwall Hill residents, who have been particularly hard-hit by the terrorizing turkeys in recent months.
Police, town officials and a representative from the State Division of Fisheries and Wildlife heard residents’ accounts of birds physically attacking them, emptying bird feeders, pulling gutters off of homes, chasing cats and dogs, and worse.
One violated Burke Street resident said that a large flock attacked the laundry hanging on a clothesline in her back yard.
“There were hundreds of them. They ripped off all my clothes and shredded them. They got into my underpants and had a time of it,” said the distraught woman. “They also stole five socks.”
Canabee Avenue resident Tabitha Freshman spoke of her horrifying attack outside Shaw’s Supermarket. Freshman said she was walking to her car and suddenly found herself swarmed by a mob of hungry turkeys.
“I came out of the grocery store with a full carriage and when I was halfway to my car, they surrounded me,” said the mother of three. “They attacked all at once, leaping into the air and hooking me with their claws. They scratched my legs and pecked at my feet. I ran back into the store. They knocked over the carriage and ate everything but the receipt.”
Police say the Shaw’s turkey gang has been seen hanging around the store, and had been shooed away many times, but this was the first time they’ve caused a problem.
“Most of them are good birds,” said patrolman Mike O’Toole. “There are one or two troublemakers, and the rest just follow along. We’ve increased patrol at the request of the store owners and it seems that they’ve moved on for now.”
Steve Hoban, a resident in the besieged Aspinwall Hill neighborhood, said that he came home one day last week and found a turkey sleeping in his bed.
Hoban said the birds had broken a window in the back of his house and let themselves in.
“When I first saw the turkey sitting on the bed, I thought it was fake, but then it flapped its wings and hissed at me. I ran downstairs to call police and found five more roosting in the dining room. They chased me out of my own house,” said a still-stunned Hoban.
Brookline Police responded and entered the residence to remove the squatters. The birds were unwilling to leave, but after a three-hour gunfight, police succeeded in shooting all the birds, a china cabinet, one wall-mounted cuckoo clock and an entire set of antique plates. A maple dining room table suffered a gunshot to the leg.
Police Chief Lockleer, speaking at the meeting, encouraged the packed room to open-fire on birds encountered their neighborhood. He advised people to stand their ground when being attacked, and engage the turkeys in hand-to-hand combat if necessary.
Lockleer also advised people to refrain from wearing red clothing, as it seems to annoy the birds.
On November 25, a man in a Santa suit standing outside of the China One retail store was besieged by aggressive male turkeys. The unidentified man fought against his attackers for 45 minutes before amused onlookers called police. He was taken to Mass General Hospital and was treated for multiple peck wounds and a concussion. The victim told police he was more concerned about damage to his rented suit than the injuries to himself. Lockleer asked anyone who finds a black plastic boot or a beard to call Brookline Police.
Dan Cimetti, an upland game-bird biologist at the State Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, attended the meeting and told residents that a male turkey can be “as aggressive as a debt collector and twice as smart.”
Cimetti said that some townsfolk have already begun to defend their homes against attacks, and suggested that residents repel turkeys by hanging from trees on their property the only things that turkeys fear—roasting pans.
“We don’t know if it’s the shape of the pan or because they are shiny,” he said, “but the turkeys run for the hills when they see them.”
Long-time resident Libby Rosenberg agreed with Cimetti, and said she hasn’t been bothered by the birds since she hung a roasting pan in her front yard.
“I tried dusting with chili powder, firecrackers, throwing bowls of hot gravy at them,” said the feisty 89-year-old, “but nothing worked until I tied my roasting pan up in a maple tree. Haven’t seen hide nor hair of one since.”
Some residents have even begun wearing roasting pans around their necks to protect themselves when they go out to do errands.
Scarpitti also suggested that the town try the low-tech bird-scare system employed at many major airports. The system uses a perimeter of loudspeakers over which Yoko Ono music is played. Cimetti warned residents to leave the area while the music is playing.
The severity of the turkey problem was underscored by an attack right outside the Brookline Town Hall where meeting was taking place.
Outside the meeting, 30 members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) were holding a vigil, asking that no harm be done to the native birds. The group waved colorful signs, which attracted the attention of a nearby herd, provoking the birds to attack.
Police say that 60-to-80 turkeys descended upon the activists, causing them to flee. Many were injured, including Tom Barrett, who lost an ear during the melee. Shortly after the attack, Barrett said that he’s had a change of heart when it comes to protecting the native birds.
“Kill all them mother-fu&%$#s,” said the former bird lover.
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