Nfld. & Labrador

Fowl gone wild? Unravelling the mystery of the Avalon Peninsula's lurkey turkeys

Isn't it interesting there have been several spottings just a few days before Thanksgiving?

Newfoundland doesn't have wild turkeys ... or does it?

Oh you know .... just a wild turkey on a golf course! Karen Kennedy was able to snap this photo at Clovelly in St. John's on Sept. 29. (Submitted by Karen Kennedy)

There are many native species of birds in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Puffins, for some of the year. The greater yellowleg. Kittiwakes and murres.

But wild turkeys are not on that list, though recent events might make you think otherwise.

First, this enormous bird was spotted wandering the Clovelly Golf Club in St. John's.

Then this trio worked up the nerve to take a walk around in the east end of St. John's, just days before Thanksgiving.

That revelation brought with it the news — with video evidence — that a gang of four wild turkeys was brazenly wandering the same golf course over the weekend.

All of this raises two questions.

First of all, do these birds know what weekend this is?

Second, how did it come to be that there are apparently at least four wild turkeys on the Avalon Peninsula?

Birds on the run?

Kyle Ledrew of Ochre Pit Cove has a theory.

"There's been a lot of talk about the guys that have been raising wild turkeys and letting them loose and seeing what they'll do, or just getting up one morning and, you know, three or four of the turkeys are gone," Ledrew — a contractor who keeps a small hobby farm with hens — told the St. John's Morning Show. 

Two years ago, an audience member sent in what appears to be a photo of a wild turkey in Terra Nova Park. (Submitted by Ron O'Toole)

"Maybe something has been eating them, or maybe they've just decided that there's a better meal to be had somewheres else."

Ledrew has connected with some farming and homesteading communities, which is where he heard the chatter about the potential of wild turkeys in Newfoundland.

It's feasible that such a population of birds, whether introduced intentionally or by accident, could survive on the island, he said.

If you let the turkeys settle in they might really settle in, as evidenced by Terry the Turkey in London, Ont. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

"They have survived in Ontario, and quite well," he said.

"I have no reason to believe personally that they wouldn't survive our conditions, as long as they can find access to food."

Introduce with caution

Even if they could survive here, it remains to be seen whether or not it's a good idea to give them a shot.

The history of introducing non-native species to the island is mixed. The moose, successfully introduced in 1904 after earlier failure, clearly like it here but species introduction can have unintended consequences that are negative, even disastrous, for ecosystems.

We're not talking about this kind of Wild Turkey. (Bruce Schreiner/Associated Press)

When it comes to some species, like raccoons, the Newfoundland and Labrador government is actively working to prevent a wild population from becoming established.

But in Facebook groups for local residents who are interested in farming and homesteading, as well as turkey husbandry, reports of wild turkeys across the island can be found. 

Turkeys can, apparently, fly. Good to know. (Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren)

The St. John's Morning Show is on the case. In the meantime, if you see a wild turkey, don't shoot it — there is no licensing available to hunt them in the province — and if you have a wild turkey in captivity, try to keep it there.

And Happy Thanksgiving.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terri Coles

Reporter

Terri Coles is a St. John's-based freelance writer.

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