KAGAWONG—Having determined the turkeys in Kagawong are wild and not domestic, a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) representative says the ministry has no plans to do anything with the birds, which have stirred up some safety concerns in the municipality. However, those people who have damage done to their property by the birds can legally take steps to get rid of them.

“No, we have no plans to further investigate the turkeys in Kagawong,” Brian Riche, area supervisor of the MNRF, told the Recorder last Friday. “We are not planning to make a site visit, or meet with council at this time.”

Mr. Riche explained, “at this time there will be no active investigation put in place as to who may have released the birds. The birds are wild but cannot be hunted.” However, “for turkeys that have done property damage, a property owner can take steps to dispose of them under section 31 of the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Protection Act.” This would include having a conservation officer with the MNRF evaluating the damage that has been done to the property.

Patrick Hubert, an avian biologist with the MNRF, confirmed last week, “I’ve heard some recent stuff about concerns being raised in Kagawong with turkeys and discussions I’ve been involved in as to whether they are pen-raised wild or domestic turkeys.”

“I actually saw a couple of the birds when I was last on Manitoulin Island,” said Mr. Hubert. “Their body type suggests they are pen-raised wild birds that are built for survival with a stream lined body and longer legs. Domestic birds have a heavier build.”

“The last pictures I saw of the birds on Manitoulin were last fall,” said Mr. Hubert. “And these birds are of a colourization that would indicate they are wild birds.”

“Based on the evidence we have they are wild turkeys and it is up to the (MNRF) district office if they are going to react to the concerns raised,” said Mr. Hubert. “The reason I became involved with this is because of my experience with turkeys. The District office asked my opinion of the birds in Kagawong. However, we don’t have any clear evidence of where the birds are actually from. Based on experience it would not be surprising if someone had released them.”

[quote_left]“I’ve seen cases where people love to have wild turkeys around until they get close to kids, or are aggressive in the spring. So it is understandable some concerns have been raised by local residents,” said Mr. Hubert.[/quote_left]

Dawn Sucee, a fish and wildlife biologist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), told the Recorder last week, “our involvement with all of this is that at one time there had been a commitment by the province to release wild turkeys on Manitoulin Island. We were, and still are, a strong supporter of this and were disappointed with the eventual postponement of the environmental assessment that was supposed to be done.”

“It is disappointing because as an organization we would like to see, as would many members of the community, wild turkeys stocked on the Island and to have a wild turkey hunt,” said Ms. Sucee. “This is the case on St. Joseph’s Island where a wild turkey population was established in 2005 and a successful hunt took place beginning in 2008.”

Ms. Sucee said, “it is not uncommon for turkeys to be hanging around where food is, even close to humans. If feeders are available they are attracted to them, especially in the winter, and if someone is feeding them it is not uncommon to see them in rural areas.”

“We continue to support a wild turkey release on Manitoulin,” said Ms. Sucee. “There would be social and economic benefits to having an open season. But we don’t have a meeting scheduled with the MNRF to talk about turkeys on Manitoulin; my understanding is this would have to take place more at the local level.”

Ms. Sucee said, “with the spring break-up the birds spread out into other areas for food and they don’t rely on things like feeders. So there will be some relief to those residents in Kagawong who have concerns, soon.”