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A look back at efforts to bring wild turkey to Nova Scotia




Taken from Nova Outdoors Summer Edition 2001


Wild Turkeys In Our Future? – Maybe!


By Ed Coleman

Are we close to having wild turkeys in the province? And in the Annapolis Valley in particular? Don’t expect anything to happen soon but it’s a possibility.

At the April meeting of the Kings County Wildlife Association it was announced that the Department of Natural Resources is looking at a proposal from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) on introducing this bird. I contacted Natural Resources wildlife director, Barry Sabean, who confirmed that the NWTF had indeed submitted a proposal which is currently being reviewed by Department biologists.

The NWTF is a non-profit American organization that in their own words is “dedicated to conserving wild turkeys and preserving hunting traditions.” Since 1973 the NWTF has spent more than $130 million on projects benefiting wild turkeys throughout North America. Apparently the NWTF is willing to fund a turkey stocking program in the province. While I have no details on the proposal now in the hands of Natural Resources.

 I understand that the NWTF has offered to provide $60,000 to fund the importing and stocking of wild turkeys from Ontario. A biologist from the NWTF will be coming to the province shortly to discuss their stocking proposal with the Department of Natural Resources.

 Nova Scotians have been flirting with the stocking of wild turkeys for decades. In 1957 the Department of Lands and Forests attempted to stock turkeys and failed. There have been various private stockings as well, most of which failed because pen-reared birds were used. In the 90s a stocking in Annapolis County appeared to take hold. This was contrary to the Wildlife Act which specifically prohibits the private stocking of turkeys, and there was quite a flap when the Department of Natural Resources threatened to destroy the flock.

When and if wild turkeys are introduced, most of the credit must go to the Digby East Fish and Game Association. The Association has been lobbying for nearly 20 years for a turkey introduction. In 1988 the Association hired a biologist from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to evaluate the potential wild turkey habitat in the Annapolis Valley. After a detailed study, the biologist concluded that there was a great potential for wild turkeys in the Valley. In his report the biologist said that the potential is “at least equal to, or probably greater than that in New Hampshire or Maine,” which now have excellent wild turkey populations.

 Despite this positive study and ongoing efforts, the Digby East group has been stymied in its efforts to have wild turkeys introduced. Apparently the government has been lukewarm about turkey stocking, and I surmise, a bit afraid to make it a public issue. In 1993 when I was preparing a magazine article on the possibility of turkey stocking, I interviewed the then wildife director Merrill Prime. Mr. Prime said in effect that while turkey stocking would probably succeed, social and ecological factors stood in the way. “Everything and everyone must be considered before we can go ahead (with a stocking)” Prime said.

Wildlife director Barry Sabean said that in reviewing the NWTF proposal, the principal focus “will be on the potential impact to ecological systems in Nova Scotia and whether or not the proposal provides enough detail to make an evaluation.” While Mr. Sabean added that he is “not certain if other criteria will need to be considered yet,” I’m sure the government will be thinking about how the general public, farmers, and the anti-hunting, anti-gun groups will react to turkey stocking.  

Ed Coleman is a well known outdoors writer who lives in Annapolis Valley Nova Scotia.

NOTE: Highlighting added to show how little has changed