The restoration of wild turkeys to Ontario is one of the province’s most successful wildlife recovery stories. It is a point of tremendous pride for members of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) that their Federation, in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and other partners, helped restore this important part of Ontario’s biodiversity.
Ontario’s first regulated spring hunt for wild turkeys occurred in the spring of 1987 in Wildlife Management Units (WMU’s) 68 and 71 in southern Ontario. Today 46 WMU’s have open spring seasons and 20 of those also support a fall season.
Prior to the first release, the eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) had been extirpated from Ontario for nearly a century because of unregulated market hunting and habitat loss. Hunters and other conservationists lobbied for the restoration of wild turkeys in the early 1980’s, and as a result, from 1984 through 1987 approximately 4,400 wild turkeys were released at 275 sites across Ontario.
“Over the past 25 years, generations of hunters have enjoyed their time in the field during wild turkey season,” said Angelo Lombardo, OFAH Executive Director. “It is hard to believe, given their abundance today, that the wild turkey had disappeared from the Ontario landscape. Thanks to the vision and the restoration efforts of conservationists, including the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, hunters will take to the field beginning April 25 to celebrate our proud hunting heritage.”
Efforts to restore wild turkeys to most of their former range have been extremely successful, and today the birds are thriving in Ontario. In 2007, the province estimated the population to be about 70,000 birds and growing; other estimates today run significantly higher. In 2010, nearly 60,000 wild turkey licenses were sold (54,335 spring licenses, 3,816 fall licenses), with the proceeds going directly into the Special Purpose Account (SPA) that is dedicated to supporting the provincial fish and wildlife program.
- 2012 spring season runs April 25 to May 31, including Sundays in communities that allow Sunday gun hunting
- It is mandatory to report a wild turkey harvest to the MNR (call toll-free 1-800-288-1155) by noon the day after the harvest
- New this year, turkey seals are not sticky backed and must be tied on to the bird
- Hunters wishing to hunt wild turkey must pass the wild turkey hunter education exam, and must have a valid hunting version Outdoors Card, small game license, and wild turkey license and seal
- 8,560 wild turkeys were reported harvested in the spring of 2011 and 299 in the fall
- Hunters must secure permission from the landowner to hunt on private property
- Additional information is available in a backgrounder on www.ofah.org/wildturkey
With over 100,000 members, subscribers and supporters, and 675 member clubs, the OFAH is the province’s largest nonprofit, fish and wildlife conservation-based organization, and the VOICE of anglers and hunters. For more information, visit www.ofah.org.
Photo: Ginny Lacey Gorman (ginnylgorman, flickr)