Farmers' worries delay bringing wild turkeys to P.E.I.

Concerns from blueberry growers and other farmers have put a plan to introduce wild turkeys to P.E.I. on hold.

A plan to introduce wild turkeys to P.E.I. next year has been put on hold because of concerns from blueberry growers and other farmers.

The plan, with the goal of growing a population large enough to hunt, had received conditional government approval, but blueberry farmers and grain farmers are worried about the turkeys eating their crop. Other farmers are concerned about damage to silage wrap.

Environment Minister Jamie Ballem ordered a delay in the release of the birds after hearing from the farmers, and until a U.S. study on the impact of the birds on blueberry fields is completed.

"There has been evidence of damage. At this point, I think it's still kind of anecdotal," Ballem told CBC News on Monday.

"When we heard that the University of Maine was doing a fairly intensive study, we said, 'OK, let's find out when it's going to be completed, exactly what they're looking at,' and I think it fits for some of the information we're going to be looking for."

The study, looking at the birds' impact on about 20,000 hectares grown there, should be complete by early next year— too late to bring wild turkeys to P.E.I. for 2007. The birds were to be released in the Kensington area.

The P.E.I. Wildlife Federation and the P.E.I. chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation had been given conditional approval to bring in 50 birds next year.

More birds were to have been brought in annually. The goal was to have their numbers increase enough for a hunt by 2012.