Was Fair Oaks turkey a victim of postman's rage?
Residents on a quiet Fair Oaks cul-de-sac say they are shocked and worried for their safety after a burly mail carrier clubbed and stabbed a wild turkey to death in an unprovoked attack and threatened a resident who told him to stop.
“Hey, remember, I know where you live, and I might have to have my cousins come pay you a visit,” the mail carrier told resident Michael Ewell on March 12, according to a written statement by Ewell, who said he provided the statement to the U.S. Postal Service and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
Representatives of both agencies said investigations are underway.
The mailman was not the usual carrier for the neighborhood, Ewell and others said.
Ewell, an accountant, said he watched the man as he appeared to taunt several turkeys and then struck one of them. When Ewell told him to “knock it off,” the mailman said if the turkeys didn’t leave him alone he’d “be having dark meat for dinner,” according to the statement.
The Postal Service said the mail carrier in question is on vacation and declined to name him pending the outcome of the investigation.
“The Postmaster of (the) Fair Oaks Post Office, Ed West, ... stated that no letter carriers have injured or killed any wild turkeys while delivering mail,” Meiko Patton, the Postal Service spokeswoman in Sacramento, wrote in an email.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife sent an officer to talk to residents on Dymico Court in Fair Oaks, but the officer couldn’t immediately substantiate the complaint, said Lt. Chris Stoots, a department spokesman.
Stoots said the officer didn’t see signs of foul play such as blood, feathers or the bird’s body.
“Without physical evidence or the guy admitting it, it’s still a hearsay case,” said Stoots, whose agency was not able to interview the vacationing postal carrier.
The officer first arrived on the scene four or five days after the alleged turkey killing, residents said. The turkey’s carcass lay on the curb of an adjacent street, Palmyra Drive, on the afternoon of March 12 but disappeared soon after, they said.
Across Dymico Court from Ewell, resident Nick LaPolla said he has little doubt about the violence he saw firsthand. LaPolla, a computer programmer, works from an office with windows facing the street. He said on that Saturday, at about 1:30 p.m., he was in his office when he heard a commotion out front.
LaPolla said his neighbor, Ewell, was arguing with a postal carrier who was swinging a long wooden stick with a metal tip in the direction of a big male turkey and appeared to be trying to provoke it.
“He was shouting at Michael, saying, ‘I don’t give a s---,’ ” LaPolla said in a statement he wrote for authorities.
The turkeys out here can be relentless, and they will follow you, so if somebody does get upset about it, it’s understandable.
Vu Thach, mailman
The turkey was standing on LaPolla’s lawn about 6 feet from the postal carrier and wasn’t advancing on the postman, LaPolla wrote. The mailman moved toward the turkey and struck it on its side with sufficient force to knock it about 3 feet across the lawn, LaPolla wrote.
“It wasn’t like he was defending himself,” said LaPolla, who added that he and his family walk among the turkeys without fear. He said the mail carriers’ red-and-blue uniforms might appear as “a challenge” to the turkeys, whose heads are similarly colored.
In separate interviews, he and Ewell described the carrier grasping and swinging the stick like a baseball bat. The postman then appeared to stab the turkey with the metal end of his pole, LaPolla said.
“I could see the feathers come off the turkey and what looked like a hole left behind from the attack,” LaPolla wrote.
The mailman threw the stick in the back of his truck and drove away, LaPolla said.
Ewell said he got in his car and followed the mail carrier down the street, snapping a cellphone picture of the man and his truck. It shows a heavy-set, bearded man dressed in a knit cap and a postal uniform standing by a mail-delivery truck.
It was at that point that the mailman threatened him, Ewell said.
Ewell, 63, and his sister Cheryl Kendinian, 56, a registered nurse, live in a split-level home at the end of Dymico Court. They said they were unnerved by the alleged threat and have had trouble sleeping. They said they keep a close watch on their house and intend to mount surveillance cameras.
It almost seemed like he had a vendetta against these turkeys.
Fair Oaks resident Michael Ewell
Ewell filed a report with the Sheriff’s Department and asked if he might be able to get a restraining order, he said. He said he has yet to get a satisfactory response from the Postal Service, such as an apology.
“At this point, the post office hasn’t really taken any kind of accountability,” Ewell said. “They said it was my word against his.”
Kendinian said the wildlife officer who came to her home was pleasant but told her she needed to stop feeding birds and squirrels in her yard because it is illegal and attracts turkeys. Kendinian said she intends to comply with the officer’s directions but was surprised to learn her actions were illegal. Tourists regularly feed the squirrels around the state Capitol, she noted.
“I’ve stopped feeding the squirrels,” Kendinian said. “If it keeps the turkeys safe, that’s what I care about.”
A state regulation forbids interfering with the normal patterns of wildlife, including feeding them, Stoots, the state wildlife official, said. It’s acceptable under the law to have a backyard bird feeder but not to distribute food on the ground for birds or squirrels, he said.
The postal carrier could be cited under the same law if the claims of unprovoked violence against the turkey are substantiated, he said.
LaPolla said the turkeys in the residential neighborhood near Northridge Country Club have been around for years and have never posed a threat. During their spring mating season, the birds can be aggressive, but they’ve never hurt anyone, he said.
Ewell said a postal worker told him that five mail carriers had been injured by turkeys, including one carrier who was raked by a bird’s talons and needed rabies shots.
Patton, the Postal Service spokeswoman, said no carriers had been seriously injured by turkeys.
“Fortunately our letter carriers, although threatened and nearly attacked, have not been severely injured to date,” Patton wrote in an email.
One Fair Oaks mail carrier said the turkeys can be pests but aren’t violent.
“The turkeys out here can be relentless, and they will follow you, so if somebody does get upset about it, it’s understandable,” mailman Vu Thach said, as he worked his route near Dymico Court. He, too, was filling in for the regular mail carrier, he said.
But Thach said he’d never lashed out.
“I never got to a point where I was going to fight one of these birds,” he said.
Ewell said the mailman he confronted seemed to have had prior encounters with turkeys that had caused him to fear and hate them.
“It almost seemed like he had a vendetta against these turkeys,” he said.