Reporting Jim Armstrong
CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – The peaceful beauty of Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge is something to savor, unless, of course, you’re being chased by a wild turkey.
Mary Russo of Watertown walks here several times a week. She says she has never been “pecked” by the birds, but she definitely describes them as “aggressive.”
“They are quite big, usually I see two or three at a time,” she says. “They come right up to you.”
In some cases this winter and spring, at least one of the male turkeys who has taken up residence there has done more than just approach humans. There have been dozens of complaints about turkeys chasing and harassing cemetery visitors since February.
George McLean is a cemetery volunteer and a Medford-based photographer who visits the site almost every day. He photographs the birds so often, he says he can tell them apart.
McLean says a pair of turkeys arrived at Mt. Auburn last year, and decided to call it home.
“They stayed together and they didn’t bother anyone until this year and the mating surge came on, their raging hormones we’ll call them,” explains McLean. He says the birds are docile for him, but admits that, “somebody that’s not used to a turkey, it’d scare the hell out of them.”
It wasn’t just mating season that caused the problem, though. It turns out that patrons who were feeding the turkeys were making the situation much worse. They turkeys turned more aggressive the more they were fed, according to state officials who were called in to help with the situation.
“The turkeys started off as being a novelty in the cemetery,” according to Bree Harvey, the cemetery’s Vice President of External Affairs. “We have since learned that feeding certainly does make the turkeys more aggressive.”
Harvey said the staff soon started to fear for the safety of patrons, including elderly visitors who are coming to spend time at the graves of their loved ones. The last thing Harvey wanted those people to deal with, she says, is a hungry turkey charging at them.
“We learned early on that the only option in the case of an overly aggressive turkey was to euthanize it,” Harvey explains. “Trapping the turkey and moving it elsewhere, it’s just moving the problem from one location to another.”
The cemetery called in state environmental experts who visited several times before ultimately shooting the most aggressive Tom. It was on the same day it attacked an employee and sent him to the hospital. It wasn’t the solution anyone favored, Harvey says, but in the end it was their best choice.
Still, George McLean isn’t convinced.
“It’s just too bad this had to happen,” he says. “I think there was some bad advice given, maybe, somewhere along the line you know?”