A New Canaan woman told police that a large, male wild turkey charged out of the woods near Briscoe and Cross Ridge Roads on a recent afternoon, menacing her and her little dog until her husband created a window of escape by grabbing a stick and whacking the big bird away.
The harrowing incident unfolded quickly on a Tuesday afternoon two weeks ago, according to Fran Smith of Cross Ridge Road. Smith had been out walking an accustomed neighborhood loop together with her husband and Moomoo, a rescued Chihuahua about five years old.
“I didn’t know what it was,” Smith recalled. “At first I thought it was a wild pig or something. I didn’t get that good a look. I grabbed my dog and backed up and my husband was just behind me and spread his arms and said, ‘Fran, run. It’s a turkey.’ ”
In her haste to escape the aggressive tom, Smith lost a shoe, while the turkey tried to get around her husband, she recalled.
“Amazingly, as my husband waved his arms at this turkey, the turkey spread his wings and made that—do you know that snaking motion they can make with their neck? It’s like a prehistoric kind of thing—came at my husband and wanted to go around him and get to me. So we were still by the side of the road and my husband was looking for a rock or something and managed to find a branch and shooed the turkey. He didn’t want to hurt the turkey. He was just trying to shoo the turkey away. But no, that turkey was still coming after me. It was amazing. And finally, Walter gave him a whack with the branch, which kind of kept him away long enough for my husband to pick up my shoe.”
It was a Clark’s slip-on walking shoe, she said.
A New Canaan resident for 30 years, Smith said she had lived until two years ago on Wakeman Road, then moved to the other side of Route 123, where she and her husband built a new contemporary home.
In all that time, Smith said, she has never had such an encounter with a turkey.
Yet it’s not uncommon, according to Dennis Schain, communications director with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“Turkeys can be aggressive and they have been known to attack small dogs, Schain said, adding that it’s “important to keep animals leashed.”
The species’ breeding season starts in late March when toms begin gobbling and displaying for the hens, according to the DEEP. A clutch of about one dozen eggs are incubated for roughly one month, the state says, meaning the newborn turkeys hatched within the past week or so.
Smith said the angry male she encountered “was 25 pounds if he was anything, or maybe bigger, and his wingspan was enormous.”
Asked whether she spotted a flock nearby that the male may have been protecting, Smith said no.
“We didn’t hear any turkey noises and we didn’t see anything else, but we weren’t investigating,” she said. “When he came out of the bushes, that was it. He succeeded in intimidating us, but then my husband kind of intimidated him with the branch, just long enough for us to hightail it out of there.”
She added that she and her husband likely were talking while they walked and may not have heard warning sounds.
“But turkeys make a lot of noise,” Smith said. “I hear them from my house sometimes. Honestly, this guy cannon-balled out of the bushes.”
“If my husband had moved out of his way, he [the turkey] would been running down Briscoe Road after me and the dog. Why? Who knows. It’s so crazy. But I will tell you the one change, the big change that has occurred [since the incident], is that now I stay right up in my immediate area on Cross Ridge Road unless I walk with my husband and he brings his golf club.”
Smith said that she got home and started Googling wild turkeys and found out that “they can be dangerous.”
“They supposedly have claws or spurs on their legs down near their turkey feet that are razor sharp. Who knew?” Smith said.
According to the DEEP, a male turkey’s, or tom’s, spurs can be 1.5 inches long.
“It was such a surreal experience,” she said. “I mean, honestly, even just talking about it, I am kind of reliving it. My heart was pounding so hard, you have no idea.”
Yet it also isn’t the first time Smith has encountered wild turkeys.
Smith used to live on a horse farm in Woodbury for a few years that had “plenty of turkeys,” she said.
“My last interesting turkey experience was on horseback, and that was a few years ago,” she recalled. “I keep my horse at Donegal Farm and there is a trail that connects with Sunnyfield [Farm]. And I came around a turn and my horse stopped and got very tall and I could feel his heart beating and there were baby ‘turkettes’ on one side that were stuck behind some fencing or something—some mesh fencing that I don’t know whether someone wanted to keep some things off the path—but in any case, the female was on the other side and the male turkey was circling above. He was flying over and watching. And I thought I was going to get run away with, that my horse was going to spin and run but he didn’t. We stood there and he passed and when we came back they were gone and the horse was looking for them, but I have a great horse. That, to me, would be a situation where the male turkey would have done worse things—flown down at us, but he did nothing. He circled and we left.”
Knowing what she knows now about wild turkeys, especially the menacing male near Briscoe and Cross Ridge, Smith said that when she sees people walking near the intersection, “I have rolled down my window and said, ‘Be cautious in this area.’ I think people should know.”
Asked whether she has walked past the site of the run-in since it occurred, Smith said, “Nope. Would you?”
“We still take a walk and we still go to Briscoe Road, but we don’t turn right. We only turn left toward North Wilton Road. Not where the turkey was. And still, my husband walks with his golf club at that intersection. We did not consider the need to have physical protection prior to the turkey incident. But now we do.”