Friday, March 20, 2015

A Voice For Canada’s Wild Turkey

© Othmar Vohringer

(Column originally published in the Merritt Herald)

It is no secret that organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Society of British Columbia and a long list of similar organizations right down to the many local Fish & Game Clubs across Canada pour millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours into wildlife conservation. Some of these organizations concentrate on a single species and its conservation needs. One of these is the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation; it is the new kid on the block of Canadian operated wildlife conservation organizations and was founded, like most, by concerned hunters.

Until last year the conservation efforts for the growing Canadian wild turkey population has been represented by the American based NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation). When the NWTF closed its Canada branch in the spring of 2014 to concentrate on turkey conservation issues occurring in the U.S. the vacancy was taken up by the founding of the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation (CWTF). This new, not-for-profit organization’s mission statement is to promote the establishment, restoration, preservation and sustainable management of wild turkeys and their habitats across Canada. As well, to develop conservation and research programs and engage in projects to preserve and enhance wild turkey hunting practices, traditions and heritage. It is also to focused on working with governments, other organizations and stakeholders to develop programs and engage in projects to protect wild turkeys and their habitat though education and youth conservation programs. The CWTF, with head office in Ontario, has many chapters across Canada and is hoping to set chapters up in British Columbia too. CWTF chapters are concerned with fundraising events, public education and other programs to aid the conservation needs and CWTF mission on a provincial level.

Canada has a thriving turkey population with the main population residing in the province of Ontario, however, here in British Columbia turkey populations also exist. The presence of these birds has been ongoing for probably a century or more; turkeys have been migrating from the south and entering Canada in a fairly recent natural expansion of their range.
Unlike in other provinces, British Columbia has yet to establish a conservation program for wild turkeys and in fact, regards the birds as an alien species. Yet, there are records going back to 1910 of wild turkey sightings in BC. Other records state that in the 1960’s flocks of turkeys migrating from America established themselves in the East Kootenay range.

When I emigrated from Switzerland to America and encountered wild turkeys I was instantly mesmerized by these fascinating animals and joined the National Wild Turkey Federation in an attempt to learn more about this remarkable bird and do my bit to aid in their conservation. Turkeys soon became my favourite bird species to hunt and to study. When news broke last year that a group of Canadian hunters founded the Canadian Wild Turkey Federation I signed up as a member of the new organization here in my own home country. It is my hope that in the near future the CWTF can set up several chapters in BC. Education is important since there are still many misconceptions about wild turkeys. Two of the most persistent myths are that wild turkeys have a devastating effect on agriculture and to other upland birds, such as the Ruffed Grouse and Pheasants. However, locally based studies conducted in the mid 1990 have addressed these issues with the conclusion being that turkeys do not inflict more damage on agriculture than any other wildlife and they do not cause any threatening effect on other upland bird populations.

The Canadian Wild Turkey Federation hopes to work closely together with provincial and federal governments to ensure a secure and prosperous future for the Canadian wild turkey. To achieve this goal the CWTF relies on memberships and support from the conservation and hunting community. To learn more about the CWTF and how you can help visit their website

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