Hunter cries fowl over lack of turkey hunt

The founder of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation says it’s ridiculous Maine has an annual turkey hunt but New Brunswick does not.

Government says it has no plans to implement a hunt, despite an increase in sightings

The provincial government says while wild turkey sightings have increased 'there is an insufficient level of information to determine whether turkey numbers are increasing.'

The founder of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation says it's ridiculous Maine has an annual turkey hunt but New Brunswick does not.

"New Brunswick has ... a growing population of wild turkeys," said Mike Holland of Riverview, the association's vice president. "We spend thousands of dollars a year hunting turkeys in Maine and we have the potential to create that opportunity here."

In recent years, sightings have become increasingly common, with flocks containing as many as 20 to 60 birds.

At least one birder has called the non-endemic animals aggressive, saying they disrupt the habits of other native populations.

In 2014, former premier David Alward announced his intention to institute a turkey hunt during the following spring.

"We all know what happened after that," said Holland. "The government changed." Since that time, his organization has received "complete radio silence" from the Liberal government.

Mike Holland is the founder of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation. He calls the lack of conversation around a turkey hunt in New Brunswick 'irresponsible.' (Submitted)

Holland said he believes it is irresponsible for the government to ignore the reality of the situation and hold no discussions about species management.

"We're not saying we want to run for the hills and start hunting, but let's have the conversation."  

The concept of a New Brunswick wild turkey hunt is mired in controversy and alleged foul play.

Back in 2014, allegations that turkey-hunting enthusiasts were releasing the birds into the wild emerged.

Holland said he considers these allegations unscientific and said the rise in sightings is due to more than 70,000 birds from Maine spilling over the border.

"They naturally progress into new habitat as their numbers swell," he said. 

Jean Bertin, a spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Resource Development, said in an email while the province is aware of the wild turkey federation's request, "any decision to allow a hunt would have to be done with careful attention to how a population of wild turkeys will impact other wildlife, the environment and agriculture."
New Brunswick isn't alone without a turkey hunt. The rest of Atlantic Canada, the territories and Saskatchewan also do without. (https://cwtf.ca/)

As of now, there are no plans to implement a hunt.

"Although, reports of turkeys in [New Brunswick] have increased in over the past decade, there is an insufficient level of information to determine whether turkey numbers are increasing, whether that is happening naturally and whether there is outside interference, such as illegal-release of birds," Bertin said.

For Holland, whether the population is endemic doesn't matter.

"The mandate of the department ... is to manage the wildlife that calls New Brunswick home."

"If there is a species living in the province, then it has to be mandated. I don't care if it's indigenous to the province or not," he said.

"They're here. They need to be managed."