ROCKPORT — Through rain, sleet and snow, Rockport mail carriers deliver — until now, anyway.
And it wasn't the rain, sleet or snow that stopped some of them.
Nearly every day over the last five months, an average of 10 turkeys — led by a pair of male "ring leaders" — have been chasing and attempting to peck a postal worker on his route along Marmion Way and South Street.
Rockport Post Office Delivery Manager Tim Russell said slippery sidewalks and territorial dogs are common challenges for his carriers, but over the 22 years he's worked for the U.S. Postal Service, he's never seen anything quite like this.
"Some of the neighbors said their dogs have been attacked, but mostly it's just been our postal truck," Russell said. "They chase the truck down the street — two males in particular — it's just unbelievable."
The local post office stopped delivering mail to several South Street homes after an incident Jan. 15 when a number of passers-by stopped to help the postal worker as he was being chased by the quick-trotting turkeys.
"Last week, people had to intervene so (the mail carrier) could get back to his truck," Russell said yesterday. "He was trying to wave a bag full of mail at the turkeys as he ran when some folks pulled over to shoo the turkeys away."
For weeks prior to the incident, Russell said the mail carrier had tried to park the truck out of sight or change the time of day he was delivering the mail to that area, but nothing worked.
Postmaster Bob Kerrigan sought help this past week from Capt. John Tulik of the state Environmental Police.
Tulik said turkeys exercise dominance over their area and the only way to deal with them is to be more dominant. Tulik suggested arming the postal worker with an umbrella. When a turkey begins to charge, the carrier should open the umbrella toward the turkey, which in turn should trick the bird into thinking it's facing another dominant male flaring its tail feathers.
Russell said the Environmental Police no longer relocates the birds.
Kerrigan said he's cautiously optimistic the umbrella idea will work.
"We're not going to go out with an umbrella everyday, but after a couple of times it should show the turkey that the carrier is dominant," Kerrigan said. "But I'm a little skeptical because nothing seems to stop them from going after the carrier and truck."
Russell and Kerrigan both said the top priority was the safety of the mail carrier.
"Either the turkeys are going to get hurt or one of the carriers," Russell said.
"The last thing we want to do is strike one of the animals with a truck," Kerrigan added.
Part of the problem, police Chief Tom McCarthy said, is that neighborhood residents have been feeding the birds over the last several years.
"People feed the birds," McCarthy said, "Otherwise they'd be looking for food elsewhere."
Russell said if the umbrella doesn't work, postal workers will have to come up with a "plan B."
Jonathan L'Ecuyer can be reached at email@example.com.