Nfld. & Labrador

Introduce wily wild turkey population to N.L., hunting group says

A group of local hunters hopes the Newfoundland and Labrador government is open to introducing wild turkeys to the ecosystem.

Current legislation prohibits the import and release of a live wild animals

The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources says it is not exploring the idea of importing wild turkeys. (Jim Martin)

A group of local hunters hopes the Newfoundland and Labrador government is open to introducing wild turkeys to the ecosystem.

"They are an incredibly cagey and wild bird," said Barry Fordham. "You can put them at the top of the big game bird list, actually. They are incredibly difficult to hunt, they have extremely good eyesight, they are very wary."

Hunting wild turkey requires patience, camouflage and sometimes specific calls, he said.

Earlier this month, New Brunswick added the wild turkey to the province's official bird list. It's estimated there are hundreds, if not thousands, of wild turkeys living along the Maine border.

That move has given hope to Fordham and his fellow hunters in the St. John's Long Beards, a chapter of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation.

The Avalon Peninsula wouldn't be a good spot for wild turkeys, but Fordham says central Newfoundland and possibly the west coast would provide a suitable habitat for the birds. Wild turkeys live in hardwood forests, with seeds, nuts, leaves and insects for food.

Introducing a non-native specifies has caused problems before. Moose, after all, were brought to Gander Bay in 1878 and to Howley in 1904.

But Fordham said wild turkeys could thrive here, adding that they're not in direct competition with any other bird on the island. 

Department says it hasn't received inquiry

The desire for local food is another reason why Fordham hopes the government is open to the possibility.

"[People] are no longer satisfied going to the supermarket to get domestic meat in the store," he said. 

A group of local hunters hopes the government is open to introducing the bird to the ecosystem. (Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren)

Fordham said he has requested a meeting with Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne.

"Minister Gerry Byrne seemed to be very aloof in not only with this subject, wild turkeys, but other topics that we are trying to get a meeting on. The moose population and hunters feeding the hungry," Fordham said.

"All we're looking for is for the government to be open-minded."

In an emailed statement, the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources said it has not received any recent inquiries regarding the importation of wild turkeys for the purpose of game hunting.

All we're looking for is for the government to be open-minded.- Barry Fordham

The department said current legislation under the Wild Life Act prohibits any live wild animal, like turkeys, from being imported and released.

"The department is not evaluating the feasibility of importing live turkeys for hunting purposes at this time," a department spokesperson said.

"Any individual or group seeking information regarding the introduction of wildlife to the province should contact the Wildlife Division of the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources."

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With files from On The Go

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