Gobble-Gobble Up the Town

The North Shore of Massachusetts is a place of helpful cooperation and good will. Towns help each other. If my wife manages to set fire to our house, in the outer Linebrook neighborhood of Ipswich, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a Topsfield fire truck roaring to the scene. If I break the law, depending on how heinous my crime is, chances are good that Middleton will take me off of Ipswich’s hands and incarcerate me in their Jail & House of Correction.

And the other day, as reported in the Ipswich Local News, the Town of Wenham provided a very valuable service to the Town of Ipswich, when Wenham’s astute Animal Control Officer, Steve Kavanaugh, issued a warning about aggressive turkeys.

So helpful! Ipswich has quite a number of turkeys, and many of them are aggressive. Officer Kavanaugh urges us to “avoid close interactions” with them. Unfortunately, this isn’t always feasible, because some are members of key boards and committees. You find others attending the same board or committee meeting as you, and there’s no law against a turkey attending a meeting. Also, some of our most aggressive turkeys are developers, or developers’ lawyers, which means you really must risk “close interactions” with them, because if you don’t, your town goes to hell.

(Biologist David Scarpitti told Channel 5 News, according to the Ipswich Local News report, that turkeys charge and peck at people “when they try to assert dominance.” We have certainly witnessed the pecking, and one can only assume that the lawyers are charging. But since we certainly don’t want turkeys to achieve dominance over us, I think we have no choice but to keep resisting — even with all the toil and risk this entails.) 

Residents can still protect themselves, Officer Kavanaugh says, by way of observing certain safety tips “should a turkey approach them or their property.” Indeed, aggressive turkeys have recently approached us on Essex Road and elsewhere; so abutters and other concerned citizens are going to be hugely relieved to know that there’s even such a thing as safety tips for dealing with aggressive turkeys.

One key tip: Don’t let them intimidate you. (Well, yeah, but easier said than done.) Make loud noises, Officer Kavanaugh suggests. Truth be told, I’ve observed some Ipswich residents engaging in this very strategy. At last Thursday evening’s online ZBA meeting, for example, my wife went off about the massive Bruni project, spending much of her allotted three minutes yelling and waving her arms. If I were a turkey, I would have been terrified.

Here’s a more curious tactic on the list: Cover shiny or reflective surfaces, like windows — because turkeys are attracted to their own reflection. Apparently it’s an ego thing. How could this apply to Ipswich? Well, if the Town can’t ban construction of Bruni’s 191 housing units on Essex Road, perhaps we could just ban the installation of windows in the new mega-complex. Since nobody will want to live in a place without windows, the aggressive turkey might just take his 191-unit sprawl elsewhere.

Officer Kavanaugh also makes one additional recommendation: Do not feed the turkeys. Yes, they may become tame, he says, but it won’t necessarily last. Even an apparently reformed turkey has the potential to explode in “angry or wild outbursts.” To me, this is the most disturbing item on the list. It suggests the possibility that some Ipswich residents are secretly supporting the Bruni project by putting food out for the turkey. Don’t do it, people. That bowl of Snickers miniatures on your front steps may seem like an act of compassion, but in reality it’s an invitation to disaster. Someday soon, when you’re living in a dystopian world of domination by turkeys, you’ll regret it.


Doug Brendel lives in a house on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he runs and hides whenever turkeys strut through his yard. Explore Doug’s strange world at DougBrendel.com.

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