Please Donít Feed the Turkeys
New Hampshire is truly fortunate to have such a successful turkey restoration, thanks in part to the excellent work of Ted Walski, wildlife biologist and N.H. Fish and Gameís Turkey Project Leader. New Hampshire offers excellent opportunities for hunting wild turkey as well as for people to see them. This is possible today only because they have made an amazing comeback in New Hampshire. By 1854, turkeys had completely disappeared in the state because of habitat loss and market and subsistence hunting. Restoration efforts began in 1975, when Fish and Game released 25 wild turkeys in the state, careful management, based on good science, has allowed that initial introduction to grow to more than 40,000 turkeys today. This population is a true wildlife restoration success story - thanks to the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program and the great efforts of Ted Walski.
I canít count how many turkeys Iíve seen while hunting pheasant and deer, let alone traveling along roads. They are an amazing bird and so wonderful to see. However there is an issue about feeding them. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is asking people to please NOT feed these great birds because doing so enhances the likelihood of disease, predation and human conflicts. The Department does not provide turkey feed or compensate individuals for the cost of turkey feed.
The Department does participate in qualifying cost/share projects intended to enhance turkey habitat. Good habitat management practices that result in the production of winter persistent fruits, seeds and grains can enhance the value of your land to wildlife and eliminate the need to feed them. While Fish and Game does not advocate wildlife feeding, they do recognize that turkey feeding will at times take place with or without their input. They also recognize that poor feeding practices may often do more harm than good. In response to numerous inquiries from the general public, they offer the following information:
Be Advised that irresponsible wildlife feeding can result in the spread of disease and parasites; increased rates of predation by wild and domestic animals; human habituation by wildlife and resulting animal nuisance problems as well as the illegal taking of wildlife.
DO NOT feed turkeys unless there are 15 or more inches of soft powder snow on the ground for a period of 10 or more days. Doing so is wasteful and unnecessary.
DO NOT feed turkeys during spring or fall or during the winter when there is incomplete snow-cover or patches of bare ground.
DO NOT feed turkeys within 100 yards of an occupied dwelling, adjacent to busy roads, in areas of high visibility, in residential areas or in areas where pets, predators or vehicles pose a threat to traveling or feeding turkeys.
DO NOT treat turkeys in such a way as to diminish their natural wariness of humans. Keep human contact to a minimum.
DO NOT feed wild turkeys in areas that facilitate contact with game farm turkeys. Doing so will result in cross-breeding and diminish the wildness in our native birds.
DO NOT forget that wild turkeys are a public resource. Turkeys range widely (over several square miles) and are hunted throughout the state, where biologically sustainable.
FEED TURKEYS cracked or whole kernel corn, sunflower seeds, oats, wheat, or non-medicated commercial poultry or turkey rations.
FEED TURKEYS daily by broadcasting food at a rate of 2 large handfuls (or half a cup) per turkey per day. To ensure a good distribution of food among flock members, spread it out so that all birds have an opportunity to feed.
FEED TURKEYS until the flock ceases daily visitation or until severe weather conditions moderate.
FEED TURKEYS where you have observed turkeys feeding naturally in the past. Preferably this is in close proximity to winter roost sites (often pine stands). Doing so minimizes movement and energy expenditures between roost sites and feed sites.
Bob Harris can be
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Columns by Bob Harris
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