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The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently moved 31 turkeys from Barry County up to Lake County to repopulate the turkey flock.
“We’ve seen a decline in the gobblers in northern Michigan for a number of years, so when I heard about the nuisance birds in southern Michigan the wheels started to turn in my head,” said Jim Maturen, a member of the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association.
Turkeys become a nuisance when they move into the city like they have been known to do. In the case of Barry County, the birds were scratching and eating the silage and leaving their own bit of feces behind.
Maturen and several members of the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association approached state officials in the fall of 2011 about trapping the nuisance birds from southern Michigan to release them in northern Michigan in the hopes of repopulating the flock, he said. “When we told the DNR about our thoughts they jumped at the idea, and they took the ball from there.”
In March the agency captured the turkeys by shooting a large net over them with air cannons. If they see turkeys that don’t fit their criteria then they don’t have to shoot, said Katie Keen, a wildlife outreach technician for the agency. “We like to transfer only hens because they can reproduce, and we want the turkeys in Lake County as well as in Mio to repopulate.”
The agency baited two sites on private land.
“These traps are pretty portable, and there is a little set up, so we can have multiple bait sites and when the turkeys are working them we can go in and get a shot on them,” said Steve Chadwick, the wildlife supervisor for the DNR.
The turkeys are captured in the winter when they are flocked up and easier to locate, Keen said. “In addition to that we don’t want to mess up anyone’s spring or fall turkey hunts and the summer is just too hot and stressful for the turkeys.”
They moved the turkeys to an area north of Baldwin that would not cause a problem to private land owners, Keen said. “It was an area that was identified for the habitat, so that when the turkeys were released they would be able to find food and find a roosting tree.”
Maturen hopes that one day once again northern Michigan will have an abundance of turkeys.
Northern Michigan turkeys were established in the 70s by the same method that the DNR is using now, Keen said. ”The only difference is that we’re using better air cannons.
“It is too early to tell how it is going, but we are hopeful that Northern Michigan will have a large turkey flock again.”