Drive care­fully, al­ways have a shovel

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Mahoney [email protected]­gar­

Now that it seems spring may have fi­nally ar­rived, peo­ple’s thoughts turn to out­door pur­suits, when there isn’t a hockey game on TV, or it isn’t snow­ing. The landscape is com­ing alive as flora and fauna emerge from win­ter slum­ber.

As ru­ral res­i­dents can at­test, one form of life that has be­come ubiq­ui­tous is the wild turkey, a species that has been called, among other things, “grouse on steroids.” Un­like the Canada goose, which is a sea­sonal vis­i­tor, wild tur­keys have taken up per­ma­nent res­i­dence in these parts.

It is hard to be­lieve that the birds were once as rare as hen’s teeth in On­tario. In fact, in the early 1900s, there were no wild tur­keys in the en­tire province.

But in the 1980s and 1990s, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, spurred by the de­sire to give hun­ters more game to har­vest, im­ported tur­keys from the United States and re­leased them in the coun­try­side.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists and wildlife ex­perts work with the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry, the On­tario Fed­er­a­tion of Hun­ters and An­glers and the Na­tional Wild Turkey Fed­er­a­tion to help the birds thrive.

It is es­ti­mated that there are about 70,000 wild tur­keys in On­tario now.

They are hardy, plen­ti­ful and bold. Al­though we are just now thaw­ing from one of the more harsh­est win­ters in re­cent memory, if flock size is a true in­di­ca­tor, tur­keys seem to be have win­tered well.

While they can be seen nosh­ing in fields, the big birds are not shy and reg­u­larly sam­ple feed­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in feed­ers, on lawns, yards and piles of wood.

Mo­torists are also very much aware that the birds love to lal­ly­gag along­side roads. They are un­pre­dictable and sturdy. Any driver who has had the mis­for­tune of hav­ing a close en­counter with a winged crea­ture knows that big birds can dam­age ve­hi­cles.

The turkey pop­u­la­tion is be­ing trimmed these days as hunt­ing sea­son has be­gun.

Ex­pect to see some thrilled hun­ters over the next few weeks, if the pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial is to be­lieved.

“Hunt­ing this species can be the most ex­cit­ing and chal­leng­ing fowl hunt­ing avail­able,” ac­cord­ing to On­tario Travel. “Be­gin­ning in the spring, when male birds at­tempt to at­tract their mates with proud dis­plays of strut­ting and call­ing, the chal­lenge is the great­est. As a re­sult, call­ing has be­come the pre­ferred method for lur­ing these birds, no­to­ri­ous for their aware­ness.”

But like all good things in life, there are lim­its.

Con­ser­va­tion is still all-im­por­tant with the wild turkey. Reg­u­la­tions have been put into place to en­sure that their pop­u­la­tions are re­spected; dur­ing the spring hunt­ing sea­son a twobird limit ap­plies. Sep­a­rate turkey tags must be pur­chased for each, and each bird must be har­vested on sep­a­rate days. To hunt wild turkey in On­tario, you re­quire both a small game li­cence and a spe­cial wild turkey li­cence.

With the large num­bers of slow-mov­ing birds hang­ing around, and for­est habi­tat grad­u­ally shrink­ing, it would seem rel­a­tively sim­ple and easy to bring down a turkey. How­ever, while many are called, few are bagged. That is why skill, stealth and pa­tience are re­quired to kill the sur­pris­ingly elu­sive and de­cep­tively savvy gob­blers.

As one can imag­ine, call-shy quarry can vex even the most sea­soned and most ac­com­plished hunter.

Tur­keys are known for their bril­liant plumage, cocky de­meanour and mean sense of hu­mour. These birds love to tease hu­mans.

In­evitably, a hunter will come across smug show-offs that ig­nore ev­ery ef­fort to lure them within gun or bow range. They ca­vort in the open, strut­ting their stuff while cam­ou­flaged hu­mans slowly fume.

Nat­u­rally, there has al­ways been much dis­cus­sion about why a tom will not re­spond to a fake call of the wild.

The bird may sim­ply be wary of a con­fronta­tion, it could be tired after an ac­tive breed­ing sea­son and just wants to be alone.

The prime rea­son over­tures are re­jected is that the birds want to sur­vive. As the hunt­ing sea­son pro­gresses, the sur­vivors tend to get ex­tra cau­tious. Any species, re­gard­less of how much it loves the oc­ca­sional adren­a­line rush, will get nervous if it gets shot at. Re­gard­less of the sea­son, we should al­ways be aware of oth­ers. That is why we are re­minded to be on the look-out for tur­tles that are try­ing to cross the road.

Each year, from late May to early July, fe­male tur­tles leave creeks, rivers and marshes to lay their eggs on land. How­ever, many of these lum­ber­ing crea­tures never ar­rive at their des­ti­na­tion.

Road mor­tal­ity is one of the big­gest threats facing fresh­wa­ter tur­tles as many die each spring when they are hit by cars.

That is one rea­son all eight of On­tario's na­tive tur­tle species are “at risk.”

That is why we should be pre­pared to slow down and help a crea­ture in need. Re­mem­ber to keep a shovel in the car, if you need to res­cue a tur­tle, or dig your­self out of a snow bank.

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