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When Turkeys Attack: Bostonians Battle Wild Birds
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When Turkeys Attack: Bostonians Battle Wild Birds


When Turkeys Attack: Bostonians Battle Wild Birds
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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From Penguins to turkeys. Not the ones on your tables this week, but the wild kind. Wild turkeys were almost hunted out of existence more than 100 years ago, but they seem to be making a comeback. And these large, sometimes ornery birds are strutting into suburbs in the northeast and Midwest. NPR's Chris Arnold reports from Brookline, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.

CHRIS ARNOLD: One morning a few years ago Roberta Schnoor was standing at the sink in her kitchen looking out the window at her backyard when something caught her eye.

(Soundbite of music)

ARNOLD: It was a large male turkey, a tom, who appeared out of nowhere.

Ms. ROBERTS SCHNOOR: He was at least three feet tall and 20 or 30 pounds, a substantial sized bird. Especially having kids, I thought what fun.

(Soundbite of theme from "Jaws")

Ms. SCHNOOR: Initially we just saw the one tom, but then we began to see a flock of turkeys in the neighborhood and they became progressively more aggressive.

(Soundbite of theme from "Jaws")

ARNOLD: The turkeys started following people down Schnoor's street. They'd get all big and fan their feathers. They started chasing joggers, kids, even Schnoor's white-haired 65-year-old neighbor, Louise Dionne.

Ms. LOUISE DIONNE: They came around from behind the house. Then they came chasing, and they'd walk right close, right next to your leg.

(Soundbite of theme from "Jaws")

Ms. DIONNE: It was scary because they're right behind you, pushing against your legs. So all of the sudden this one jumped up on my shoulder and attacked.

ARNOLD: The big male tom jumped on her back, beating its wings and scratching at her with a talon turkeys have on their leg.

(Soundbite of theme from "Jaws")

Ms. DIONNE: With his feet.

(Soundbite of turkey gobble)

ARNOLD: Okay, those aren't the actual turkeys that attacked Dionne, and she made it to a neighbor's house unscathed after kicking the turkey in the chest. But more people around the country are having such run-ins. Wild turkeys have been reintroduced with great success over the years, along with other native birds like eagles and hawks. Today there are around three million wild turkeys nationwide, and they can show up just about anywhere trees drop acorns or other nuts or berries.

Mr. JONATHAN GROBSTEIN: Then like we saw the turkeys over there.

ARNOLD: Eight-year-old Jonathan Grobstein, his ten-year-old brother Benjamin and their friend Gab Rizica(ph), who's nine, say the turkeys in Brookline have chased them too.

Mr. GROBSTEIN: It's sort of been like running away from them, getting away, you know.

ARNOLD: The birds who get accustomed to suburban life apparently start to see people as other turkeys, and they try to establish their turkey dominance. Feeding the birds encourages that. Wildlife experts say you should intimidate the birds back.

Mr. GROBSTEIN: We kind of like tease them, getting them annoyed and stuff.

ARNOLD: And what - how are you doing that? I mean like how do you annoy a turkey?

Mr. GROBSTEIN: We like run off our bikes and like started making sounds and like...

Unidentified Child #1: He just makes a sound.

Unidentified Child #2: And you throw rocks at it and you go...

ARNOLD: Lisa Grobstein, one of the parents of the kids here, says her kids didn't throw any rocks, though she has worried about children getting chased into the street.

Ms. LISA GROBSTEIN: That's the concern, is that if they're chasing children, whether on the bikes or running, they could run right into the road, you know, and get hit by a car.

ARNOLD: The turkeys also knocked down an old fence in Grobstein's back yard. They covered patio furniture around the neighborhood with excrement that only 30 pound birds can produce. And they'd hang out on Grobstein's front steps eating her decorative cabbage.

So you'd just open the door and there'd be like a gang of turkeys there?

Ms. GROBSTEIN: Oh yeah. Right here. Yeah, they would just hang out there, you know. And at first we first we also thought it was nice. But after a while you didn't want them on your doorstep going to the bathroom over there, but they wouldn't leave. And I'd come home and they would be right here in the driveway and I'd be afraid to like try to get into the house.

ARNOLD: Grobstein says she thought about running the birds down in the street with her Volvo SUV, and somebody ran over the biggest, most aggressive male turkey over on Route 9. Grobstein says it wasn't her. Neighbors think a fox got another one. Sixty-five-year-old Louise Dionne was not sad to see it go.

Ms. DIONNE: No. Not at all. No, I was glad.

ARNOLD: There are some tips at for how to handle unruly turkeys, but one method is giving them a good whack with a broom. Since the bigger males got killed off, the flocks of younger birds hasn't been nearly as aggressive, but Dionne still keeps an eye out for them and a stick near the front door.

Ms. DIONNE: You still don't trust those turkeys that you see now. You figure it doesn't take much for them to go berserk also.

(Soundbite of theme from "Jaws")

ARNOLD: Chris Arnold, NPR News, Boston.

(Soundbite of turkey gobble)

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