Monday, September 26, 2011

Are Wild Turkeys Impacting East Kootenay Agriculture Producers?

New Study Reveals the Facts

Article by Mark Hall, EKWTA Field Program Coordinator

Private farmland in the East Kootenays provides seasonal and year-round habitat for many wildlife species. Some of the region’s wild turkey flocks are considered to be “farmstead” flocks – sustained by the habitat and food sources available on private farmland. Since the East Kootenay region has a history of wildlife-agriculture conflicts, the East Kootenay Wild Turkey Association (EKWTA), in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), completed a study this past spring that assessed the effect of Merriam’s wild turkey on the region’s commercial agriculture producers.

The study dispels some rumours and myths that, historically, have tended to perpetuate stereotypes in the hunting and agriculture communities. By providing factual information, the study should help hunters develop a better appreciation of the challenges faced by local agriculture producers. In addition to those benefits, the study also provides wildlife managers and policy makers with factual information on the effects of wild turkey on agriculture as well as the overall attitudes of agriculture producers towards wild turkeys. Conversely, the study also provides agriculture operators with a better understanding of wild turkey biology and the interest that the EKWTA and NWTF have in pro-actively addressing concerns created by wild turkeys.

Some of the study’s key findings include:
  1. Wild turkeys are not causing significant wide-spread losses to commercial agriculture producers in the East Kootenays.
  2. Rumours and stories that all commercial agriculture producers hate wild turkeys are unfounded.
  3. Nearly half of the producers indicate wild turkeys provide some type of beneficial service.
  4. Losses and damages caused by wild turkeys are not significantly affecting the producer’s bottom line.
  5. Wild turkeys do not pose a risk of disease transfer to domestic livestock.
  6. There is a general interest and tolerance among agriculture producers regarding wild turkeys as long as damages do not exceed current levels.
  7. 75% of producers reported that allowing hunting on their private land is the main action taken to reduce negative effects caused by wild turkeys.
The EKWTA is based in Cranbrook, BC. It is a non-profit society representing 200+ local members whose interests include wild turkey conservation, general wildlife habitat management and the preservation of our hunting heritage. The EKWTA is currently the only regional chapter of the NWTF in the province. The NWTF is a leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation in North America and is dedicated to conserving the wild turkey, preserving the hunting heritage and introducing people to the outdoors through its outreach programs. In BC, the Merriam’s wild turkey is classed as an alien (introduced) species under the Wildlife Act; however, the EKWTA is working towards the integration of the Merriam’s wild turkey into wildlife management in the East Kootenays by addressing social, ecological and political concerns regarding its presence in the province.

The EKWTA has hosted the annual Hunting Heritage Super Fund fundraiser banquet for the last 11 years and, for the last 9 years, has hosted a youth outdoor fun day, called “JAKES Day”. Since 1985, approximately $31,000 of the NWTF’s BC wild turkey super fund has been invested back into wildlife conservation in this province.

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