By Nick Vanderwall
Capital News Service
LANSING — The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has moved 31 turkeys from Barry County north to repopulate the flock in Lake County.
“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 based in Chase.
Turkeys become a nuisance when they move into a city as they have been known to do. In Barry County, the birds were scratching and eating silage and leaving their own bit of feces behind.
Maturen and several other association members approached state officials in the fall of 2011 about trapping nuisance birds from southern Michigan to release in northern Michigan. “When we told the DNR about our thoughts, they jumped at the idea, and they took the ball from there.”
Department employees captured the turkeys by shooting a large net over them with air cannons.
If they see turkeys that don’t fit their criteria, they don’t have to capture them, said Katie Keen, a DNR wildlife outreach technician based in Cadillac. “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 department baited two sites on private land.
DNR Wildlife Division supervisor Steve Chadwick, who is based in Plainfield, said, “These traps are pretty portable, and there is a little set up, so we can have multiple bait site. And when the turkeys are working them, we can go in and get a shot on them.
Keen said turkeys are caught in the winter when they are flocked up and easier to locate. “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.”
The turkeys were moved to an area north of Baldwin to avoid problems for private landowners, she 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.”
Northern Michigan turkeys were established in the 1970s by the same method that the DNR is using now, Keen said. ”The only difference is that we’re using better air cannons. It’s too early to tell how it’s going, but we are hopeful that Northern Michigan will have a large turkey flock again.”
Maturen said he also hopes that someday northern Michigan will once again see an abundance of turkeys.
Nick Vanderwall writes for Great Lakes Echo.