Monday, June 11, 2012

A Native Bird Returns: The Comeback of the Eastern Wild Turkey

A wild Turkey foraging at Mass Auduibon's Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon, MA in June of 2012. Image Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

30 or so years ago, when I was growing up in eastern Massachusetts with occasional trips to western Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the sighting of an Eastern Wild Turkey was a pretty rare event. Now these large birds seem fairly ubiquitous, showing up in a range of suburban and even urban environments as their range and numbers grow in New England.

For the past few years I've been seeing Wild Turkeys on a fairly regular basis, both along the sides of regular suburban roads and in the woods. I've also had a few minor run-ins with groups of rather surly male turkeys  in the spring, including one last year when they were blocking my way to my car - fortunately I have a back door so I was able to distract them, then run inside and sprint out the back door to my car. Another time I had a group attack my moving car, pecking at the tires. Despite the occasional problems these birds can present they are actually quite beautiful and their return to the woods and fields of New England speaks well of conservation efforts over the past two decades.

In doing a little research online I cam across an interesting website run by the North American Wild Turkey Federation has created a Management Plan, which .they describe on their website as: 

  "...a compilation of regional and state/provincial plans that will outline goals to help wildlife management agencies and the NWTF's dedicated volunteers target the most important factors in wild turkey conservation and protecting our hunting heritage." 

According to their website the group has been working with variety of stakeholders, including private land owners and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to enhance and restore Wild Turkey habitat in the Commonwealth.

In fact, the return of the Wild Turkey is touted as one of the most important conservation success stories in the US, and Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has posted a great paper online where you can learn more about this remarkable effort to restore an important avian presence in the native landscape. In an earlier post I wrote about the return of the beaver to Massachusetts, another important ecological actor which had been extirpated from Massachusetts. Whenever I see one of these animals which were once so rare here making a comeback it gives me hope for the future of conservation and not just the preservation, but the improvement of the natural places that make New England so special..

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

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