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August 8, 2009

Attack, counterattack

Marauding turkeys back on the postal prowl in Rockport

They're back.

After a seven-month break, wild turkeys are once again attacking mail carriers as they deliver parcels in Rockport's South Street neighborhood — and at least one mail carrier Thursday was fighting back.

In what seemed like a scene out of what might have been a badly updated Hitchcock film, a turkey was spotted chasing a U.S. Postal Service truck down South Street on Thursday afternoon. When the mail carrier exited the vehicle, the turkey went after him. And despite the postal worker's attempts to scare the bird off, the turkey continued its charge — until the carrier responded with pepper spray.

Though he wouldn't reveal his name, the mail carrier did say it was the first time he has ever used his pepper spray, which is issued to mail carriers as protection against aggressive dogs, officials said.

The state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) instructs people not to let turkeys intimidate them, but turkey expert Jim Cardoza said pepper spray is not the answer.

"Turkeys don't have tear ducts so pepper spray is not a good idea," Cardoza said yesterday. "People should bully it back, whack it with a broom, or use a hose.

"As a last resort, police can destroy the animal if the turkey is harming an elderly person or child," he added, "but it's not the preferred option."

The mail carrier described himself as a "nice guy" who didn't want to harm the animal.

According to Rockport Post Office Delivery Manager Tim Russell, before Thursday's incident, the area had been quiet this year following a five-month streak of nearly daily turkey attacks last September to January.

Nearly every day over that span, an average of 10 turkeys — led by a pair of male "ring leaders" — chased and attempted to peck a postal worker as he completed his route along Marmion Way and South Street.

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