Wild Turkeys: the Cure for the Common County

If youÂ’re bored and in Whatcom County, this is a godsend.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife thinks Whatcom County needs more recreational opportunities. The potential solution: the introduction of wild turkey, which, it turns out, is a frustratingly intelligent bird. Wild turkeys are not native to Washington state, but neither are carp, trout, bass, chuckers, wild boar, Chinese pheasants, Hungarian partridges, opossums, or something called a Chilean tinamou, says Laura Leschner, the wildlife program officer at the WDFW's Mill Creek office. Those animals have all been introduced to Washington State so people could kill them. Some have survived better than others, and some were more legal than others. Opossums and boar, for example, were unauthorized releases (i.e., someone other than the WDFW introduced them), and both have wreaked havoc on native species. Since 2006, the department has been discussing a proposal to release several potential Thanksgiving feasts about 10 miles northeast of the Whatcom town of Acme. These days, before the WDFW introduces an animal, the department first tests its habitat needs and eating patterns to determine if it will displace any species native to Washington. "We're a little concerned [the turkeys] could eat plants or special species that are protected, so now the proposal is that we would put special radio collars on some of them and do some food-habit studies to make sure they're not harming anything," Leschner says. This is a danger, she says, because turkeys will eat just about anything. To hunt the bird, she adds, is a real art. "It's not easy; they're really smart," she says. "You have to use camouflage, and you have to sit out there in the early morning and pretend you're a turkey. You sit there and gobble."

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