We are told that historically Wild Turkeys were found only in southern Michigan, south of a line between Muskegon and Bay City. Apparently the deep snow and perhaps habitat considerations prevented their expansion north. Much has changed both within the southern and northern, areas of our state since pre-settlement.
The argument is that because the turkeys were not native to northern Michigan and because they receive assistance during severe winter months they shouldn’t be there. If they can’t survive in a natural environment they should be considered an exotic specie and should not exist in this region.
If that is the case then let’s examine some parallels. Millions of dollars are spent on fish hatcheries that provide a superb fishery in some areas of our state. Because of degrading of habitat and other factors, hatcheries are used to provide the fishery. However, if those fish species can not survive in a natural environment then they should not be there.
Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars have been spent on providing habitat for the Kirtland’s Warbler, an endangered specie. Their numbers were but a few just a decade ago. They require a very narrow age class of Jackpine. Thousands of acres of Jackpine have been provided and manipulated, thus destroying habitat used by other wildlife species. Quite simply, if this warbler can n01 survive in a natural environment than it should be allowed to be extinct.
If Wild Turkeys are to be considered an exotic specie then Rainbow and Brown Trout, the four species of salmon in the Great Lakes, the pheasants and any other non native specie should not be here, especially if they can not survive in a natural environment.
Our northern Wild Turkeys do just fine nine months of the year. It is their natural environment as they flock together at a common food source during severe winters. In the spring they break up and remain wild and wary. The potential for increasing and enhancing Wild Turkey numbers is great within much of the 3.9 million acres of state forests.
If top DNR management would provide the initiative and money from our restricted turkey management fund to provide meaningful turkey habitat on those millions of acres of state land in northern portions of our state instead of spending millions of our dollars on dubious land purchases, including stream and lake frontage, on inflated land, stream bank stabilization gates, parking lots among others the potential for the presence of Wild Turkeys within our state forests in enormous.
As more open land is developed in southern Michigan, along with increased land under lease and permission to hunt being lost the millions of acres of public land within the northern regions of our state become more important each and every year. The DNR’s current buzz words are hunter recruitment and retention. We may be able to recruit a hunter but retention will be impossible if basic habitat needs are not provided on those state forests.
Should all of those fish and wildlife species that were mentioned earlier be managed including our Wild Turkeys? Most certainly they should. This is modem Michigan – not pre-settlement times. Just think how much poorer our world would be without them. We owe a great deal of debt to those fisheries and wildlife biologists of the past and the initiatives and action that they took.
If you hear someone say that if our Wild Turkeys can not survive on their own 12 months of the year in northern Michigan they shouldn’t be here just consider that their brain is located somewhere in the rear of their anatomy. If you hear biologists, whose wages are paid for by hunters dollars, spew the same heady theory remind them that they work for us and those many thousands of citizens that get so much enjoyment at the presence of the Wild Turkey in northern Michigan.