EXPERTS SAYS WILD TURKEY STOCKING WILL WORK (March 20/98)

On numerous occasions, I’ve mentioned in this column that the Digby East Wildlife Association has been lobbying for the introduction of wild turkeys. The Association has been pushing for at least 15 years for the turkey introduction, instigating a feasibility study and investing considerable time and money.

It appears to have been a fruitless exercise. While I’m not familiar with the full story, it seems that even though the Association has provided evidence wild turkeys would thrive, it has been thumbs down from the government. A recent letter from an Association member said they’ve had no success with efforts to interest the province in turkey stocking. The tone of the letter tells me there are a lot of frustrated people in Digby County.

From what I’ve read about wild turkeys and pheasants, I’ve concluded that they can thrive in similar habitat. While this is the opinion of an armchair biologist and non- expert, I’ve also noticed that there are healthy populations of wild turkeys in areas with habitat and climate similar to Nova Scotia. Many people are convinced that wild turkeys would do nicely if stocked here but only the Digby East Association has been active – or at least the most visible – in seeking an introduction.

The feasibility study initiated by the Digby East Wildlife Association indicates that turkey stocking should be successful. In 1988 the Association hired a biologist from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to evaluate the potential wild turkey habitat in the Annapolis Valley. The biologist concluded that the potential for turkeys in the Annapolis Valley is “at least equal to, or probably greater than that in New Hampshire or Maine” which now have excellent wild populations.

In his study, the biologist did a detailed comparison of weather conditions, winter foods and habitat in Nova Scotia and New Hampshire. In most cases, the comparisons were either favourable or they indicated Nova Scotia was more suitable for turkeys than New Hampshire. There were only a few negative aspects in the report and these were minor in nature.

There is little doubt that there will be more lobbying for the stocking of wild turkeys, from the Digby East Wildlife Association and other interested groups and individuals. If you need ammunition and don’t have access to the study referred to above, here are some quotes from it:

“The Nova Scotia forest and field habitat is not that different from other northern areas of the Northeast, including Ontario. There is a niche or type of habitat not being fully used by partridge, pheasants and other game species in the Annapolis Valley which could be utilized by wild turkeys.”

“The Annapolis Valley has all the natural winter foods used by wild turkeys in the northern New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, except for an apparent scarcity of European and Japanese barberry bushes.”

“Wild turkey restoration in the Northeast has been going on for two decades with no apparent harm nor competition with other game species. Also, it is not as if wild turkeys are an exotic type of game species. Wild turkeys are native to most of North America and are showing great adaptability in surviving in different habitats.”

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