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American wild turkeys have made a remarkable comeback. The birds' population, which had fallen to about 200,000 specimens in the early 1900s, has risen to over 7 million today. But the wildlife conservation success story has a downside. The aggressive birds have become a neighborhood menace, destroying gardens and chasing after residents. The latest to make headlines is an aggressive tom that has been attacking cyclists, runners, and walkers on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail in Washington, DC, for the past five months.
Joe Cashman, aka Ranger Joe, first encountered the 3.5-foot-tall fowl in fall 2021. The park guide and a colleague were on bike patrol when the massive bird began to chase them.
"We got a kick out of it,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “Then we started getting complaints. It started getting aggressive. It’s gotten more and more aggressive."
Since then the fierce fowl has attacked numerous unsuspecting residents. Among them, is DC native and musician DeDe Folarin. The avid bicyclist was traversing the trail on April 12, 2022, when he got attacked.
"This big, gigantic wild turkey jumps up out of the brush and almost claws me in the face and knocked me off of my bike," he recalls. “It literally chased me around for like 5 minutes. I was running around trying to get away from it and get back to my bike. It was just crazy.”
The musician says the turkey then got distracted by another biker and turned to hound her. In a now-viral video captured by Folarin, the woman is seen trying to use her bike to protect herself from the turkey and calling out to the musician for help. Folarin finally managed to get rid of the fearless bird with the help of a stick.
The National Park Service officials managed to corner the elusive bird under a bridge recently. But upon seeing the nets, it took flight and disappeared across the Anacostia River. The fugitive is recently believed to have fled again — this time across state lines into Bladensburg, Maryland. The area's park officials are currently on the hunt for the wily bird. Hopefully, the tom will be caught before it attacks more people.
The turkey is not the only wild animal terrorizing DC residents. On May 3, 2022, the Smithsonian's National Zoo reported that a wild fox had snuck into the flamingo enclosure and killed 25 birds and one duck. The officials have moved the remaining birds into an indoor barn and the ducks to a covered, secure outdoor space.
“This is a heartbreaking loss for us and everyone who cares about our animals,” said Brandie Smith, Director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology. “The barrier we used passed inspection and is used by other accredited zoos across the country. Our focus now is on the well-being of the remaining flock and fortifying our habitats.”
Resources: nwf.org, Smithsonianmag.com, outsider.com, dcist.com, Wallstreetjournal.com