When animals attack (and I scream like a little girl)

I have been hoping for an animal encounter ever since I returned to hiking in earnest almost four years ago.

It should have happened by now. The woods of the White Mountains teem with life. Every hiker in the state seems to have a story — with photos — of moose and bear sightings. Some of the moose in the photos even seem to be hip to the camera, striking a pose aimed at landing their image on the next state stamp, maple syrup bottle label or gift shop trucker hat.

No such luck for me. In the past four years, I’ve seen black flies, mosquitoes and the occasional squirrel. I’ve seen plenty of bear and moose crap. The closest I’ve come to a shocking encounter was turning a corner on the way up Mt. Eisenhower and coming upon a hiker dropping trou to relieve himself in the middle of the Edmands Path.

This all changed Friday on the Ridge Trail in the Breakheart Reservation. While it’s a fine place for a late winter/early spring warmup hike, Breakheart will never be mistaken for the White Mountains. For one, it’s located about two minutes from the odd commercial bustle of Route 1 in Saugus (You can stop at Karl’s Sausage Kitchen for some hackepeter and bloodwurst and just love a bargain at the giant Christmas Tree Shop before your hike and refuel at Hooters on your way home). The views are dominated by power lines, covered landfills, parking lots and the back sides of hastily constructed condominium complexes. The Ridge Trail, however, has a decent number of rocky ups and downs, making for a good workout.

I expected to be stepping around broken beer bottles. I didn’t anticipate an animal attack.

I was walking in the woods below the ridges. With no views, I was deep in thought (about bacon. Seriously). Suddenly, there was a scream and something slammed into my backpack. I let out a loud little-girl shriek of my own and stumbled forward a few steps, barely keeping my balance in the rotting, late-winter snow. There was a loud crash through the trees on my right and something was yanking at the hiking pole. Steeling myself, I turned to face my attacker.

A turkey. Two, actually. Big ones, with mean-looking beaks. We hadapparently startled  each other as I rounded a corner on the trail. I did what any brave, red-blooded American man would do. I turned around and hauled ass down the trail. I could hear their taunting gobbles and clucks behind me as they followed.

After about 10 yards, I gathered my courage, turned around and bellowed, waving my arms wildly.

Turkeys CAN fly. They shot off the trail stage right, half flying, half falling down the hill before disappearing in the brush in a hail of feathers and scat (theirs, not mine).

I’ll be spending much of the spring and summer in the White Mountains, so I expect to run into a moose eventually and have a somewhat more manly tale to tell. Until then, I’ll always have Saugus.

I never saw the turkeys again, so I couldn’t get a photo. However, police were able to come up with a sketch of one of the suspects:

This entry was posted in Animals, Turkeys, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to When animals attack (and I scream like a little girl)

  1. Christy Nadalin says:

    Awesome story. And the fact that you could hit Karl’s on the way back? The makings of a perfect day. I’m partial to their weisswurst and triple-smoked bacon.

    Also…your sketch reminds me of my weekly threat to give one kid or the other an “ass turkey.” Don’t tell DCYF.

  2. Tom says:

    You have fallen from the Swanson Pyramid of Awesomeness.

    We used to visit Breakheart when I was a kid. Glad to see it’s still kicking.

  3. Oh my goodness. That was a good laugh I just had. It reminds me of the our camping trip 2 years ago when we were almost accosted by a raccoon. Turns out he was hoping to catch a lift to Daryl’s Food Mart cause he just finished our left over scraps in the garbage cans.

    Let’s just say, that if we ever encounter a bear in the woods my wife will be the one to survive because she’s apparently faster than I am when the flight response kicks in.

  4. Tim Hebert says:

    Hi Dave,

    I got a kick outta your turkey story as well.

    I don’t know how you and the other readers/hikers feel about hunting, but come late April here in western MAss I plan to be out in the woods, sitting very quietly in camo head to toe, patiently calling a big tom, hoping to introduce him to a load of #5’s from my Remington 870.

    All legal like. Tasty, these birds, if done right. PETA people- you don’t know what you’re missing.

    Anyway, when I started to read your story, I thought you might be sharing a personal encounter with a goshawk (sp?). I was hiking a trail here in Winchendon a couple years ago (yes, during the spring turkey season) when a fairly sizeable bird flew towards me and came surprisingly close. It landed in a tree just a few yards away- watching me. After a couple minutes I turned around and started hiking down the trail when all of a sudden something hit me on the top of my head, knocking my cap off. It was that same bird! She perched in a nearby tree, and then commenced to straif me yet again- like some psychotic, feathered F-18! I hit the deck to avoid a sure collision with this determined attacker. I finally surrendered and got the heck out of there!

    A web search indicated that this was most likely a female goshawk with a nearby nest. Their protective behavior patterns were consistent with my experience.

    Anyway, I’m glad you didn’t get hurt during that ordeal.

    BTW- I just got my license to carry and bought a nice little Smith & Wesson 9 mm for “personal protection.” Let me know if you want to borrow it.

    -Timbo ;>)

  5. Pingback: Why we hike (Hint: It has something to do with beer and cheeseburgers) | Fat Man of the Mountains

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