SAYS PROJECT LEADER
Wild Turkeys Staging A Comeback,
But Fall Season Distant Prospect
BY SUSAN USHKR
North Carolina's wild turkey pop
ulation has been climbing dramati
cally sincc the early 1970s due to
Still, it may be quite some time
before the native wild turkey re
places its domesticated kin on the
Thanksgiving holiday table in the
Carol mas. The numbers are still too
slim to warrant a fall hunting season
for the fowl Pilgrims served at their
Thanksgiving Day feast in 16*1.
"The ultimate goal ol the wild
turkey project is to have a fall wild
turkey season again." says Michael
H. Seamstcr, wild turkey project
leader for the North Carolina
Wildlife Resources Commission.
"But 1 think we have to be real con
servative in talking about a tall sea
son Most suites go to cither-sex
with a fall season and we would
have to have the population to sus
North Carolina has a springtime,
cobbler-only wild turkey hunting
season, with 1.818 birds taken dur
ing the 1991 season. April 13
through May 1 1 . That was a 19 per
cent increase over last year s report
ed harvest of 1.534 and marked the
eighth consecutive year of record
Brunswick County has two
restoration areas that have not yet
been opened to hunting.
Huge wild turkeys were abundant
in early New England. Inventor/
diplomat Benjamin Franklin was
disappointed that die native bird he
admired so highly was overlooked
as the national symbol in lavor ol
the rapac ious American bald eagle.
In January 1784. Franklin wrote
to his daughter. Sarah Bache. I
vwsh the bald eagle had not been
chosen as the representative of our
country : he is a bird ol bad moral
character, like those among men
who live by sharping and robbing,
he is generally poor, and otten very
"The turkey is a much more re
spectable bird, and withal a true
original native of America.
Unfortunately, arrival ot settlers
in the New World heralded the -un
the bird demise.
Clearing of its wtxxiland habitat
and market shooting to meet the
food demands ol a growing human
population depleted its numbers.
By the early 1900s the wild
turkey was virtually eliminated
throughout much of its original
range in the United States. A native
of the New World, fossil remains ot
the vt ild turkey have been tound dat
ing back 40 million years to the
Effons to pen- raise turkeys for re
population efforts generally failed.
But starting in the 1950s, several
states began live-trapping and relo
cating wild turkeys ? a technique
that has turned wild turkey restora
uon into w hat Seamster describes as
"one of the greatest success stories
in wildlife management."
Today the wild turkey's range ex
tends well beyond its original estab
lished habitat; 49 of 50 states (all
fcC WILCRI'C COMMISSION PHOTO
A HEX TAKES flight after her release in a wild turkey restoration
area in Sorth C arolina.
but Alaska") have wild turkey popu
By 1970. Seamstcr said. North
Carolina's wild turkey population
was down to an estimated 2, OK)
Along with loss of habitat, a fall
hunting season had contributed to
the bird's decline in North Carolina
Seamstcr said it is difficult for
hunters to distinguish between hens
and gobblers in the fall season when
the birds are sull young. In the
spring, however, breeding has taken
place and the hens arc incubating
He attributes the bird's sensation
al comeback to an aggressive trap
ping-and-relocation effort coupled
wiih the springtime, gobbler-only
In the early 1970s Wayne Bailey
was hired to run the state's turkey
restoration progr~.ii al ter having de
veloped a successful trapping -and
re location program lor West
"It was an unpopular move at the
ume." recalled Seamstcr." but wc
did succeed in closing the fall turkey
season in 1972."
The state started moving 20 to 51)
birds a year into suitable habitat and
by the mid-1980s was relocating
about UK) birds a year.
When Bailey retired in 1980, the
turkey population was up to 8, (XX).
By 1985 it had climbed to an esti
mated U,(KX) then doubled over the
next five years to 28,(XX).
"It's turned the comer and is
rapidly increasing now," said
Seamstcr. "It's like a snowball,
"Since most of the birds have
been relocated in the last five years
to areas that are not yet open to
hunting," he continued, "the upward
trend in both population levels and
harvests are expectcd to continue for
many more years."
Last year was the best year yet for
relocations, with 280 birds moved
into North Carolina from South
Carolina and Wisconsin, and 228 re
located within the state from exist
"We moved as many birds in one
year as wc used to move in 10
years." said Seamster.
It costs an average of $500 apiece
to relocate a wild turkey in the
southeastern United States, accord
ing to a survey conducted by the
National Wild Turkey Federation.
That figure has bccome the ex
change and barter rate between
Last year north Carolina spent
S 140.000 on relocating birds, of
which S60.(XX) came from fundrais
ing banquets held by the state chap
ter of the National Wild Turkey
The largest turkey populations in
North Carolina arc presently found
on the Camp Lcjcune Marine Base
in Onslow County, on the Roanoke
River bottomlands and in Caswell
County. However, numbers of birds
in the mountain region have in
creased dramatically in recent years.
All is not perfect, though.
"Habitat loss is a great concern of
ours, especially where wc arc being
so rapidly developed in the
Piedmont and with a lot of land be
ing cleared in the coastal region,"
said Seamster. "But we sull have un
occupied range where we need to
get birds established."
So far two populations have been
established in Brunswick County.
The largest is on the U.S. Army's
Sunny Point Terminal near
Soulhport, the other along the
Brunswick County's ranks second
on the priority list to get more birds
this winter, according to Fred
Taylor, local enforcement officer
with the N.C. Wildlife Resources
Those birds, said Seamstcr. will
be place in northwestern Brunswick
Wild turkeys are typically relocat
ed in groups of 15 ? five gobblers to
every 10 hens on tracts of about
5,(XX) acres or more.
"It takes a sizeable area," said
Seamstcr. "The turkey has quite a
large range, a couple of thousand
acres during the coursc of a year."
Once introduced into an area,
hunting is closed there until the pop
ulation establishes iLself over a peri
od of three to five or six years. The
flocks tend to expand up and down
along river courses, stretching out
ward where they find suitable habi
In a cooperative agreement with
the participating landowner, the
owner agrees to help manage and
protect access to the birds and to al
low the state to come hack onto the
property to obtain birds for restock
ing other areas.
Depending upon weather condi
tions, a flock of 15 birds could reach
200 in size in three years. Typically,
it takes longer to reach that level,
Wild turkeys like a habitat that in
cludes woodlands and open, grassy
areas, with adults relying on hard
mast such as acorns for winter feed
ing and the young poults on insccLs.
The restoration areas also need to
be generally isolated from humans
and their lrec-ranging cats and dogs,
to give the birds a chance to get re
established without harassment.
"The more human activity you
have, the less chance you have of
the wild turkey surviving," said
The success of the restoration
program has stanched naysaycrs.
"I've personally had a number of
dedicated fall turkey hunters come
to mc and say that they now realize
canceling the fall season was the
thing to do," said Seamstcr.
We are pleased to luive provided pairing services for
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Open Tues-Wed. 10-5:30 ? Closed Thanksgiving Day ? Fri-Sat 10-7:30
Calabash Presbyterian Church
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Sunday, Dec. 1, 2-5 pm
We welcome friends and visitors to share
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Sanitary District Asks
For Judgment On Zoning
A battle over /oiling districts near
Oak Island appears to be headed to
The Southeast Brunswick Sani
tary District wants a Brunswick
County Superior Court judge to
strike down plans by l ong Beach to
establish extraterritorial jurisdiction
(ETJ) zoning on (he west side of the
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
Henry Foy. attorney for the sani
tary district, filed a complaint Nov.
18 seeking a declaratory judgment.
The complaint contends that the san
itary district has zoning rights over
an area where the construction of a
second bridge to Oak Island is
Long Beach wants to claim the
territory in its zoning ordinance, that
due to the "current urban develop
ment of the property and the antici
pated construction of a bridge cross
ing the intracoastal waterway," the
town should establish zoning there,
the complaint states.
But the complaint notes that the
site of a new bridge lies four miles
west of the area where the sanitary
district and Long Beach zoning dis
tricts arc said to overlap.
The bridge site lies within the
boundaries of a "high priced resi
dential subdivision" known as St.
James Plantation and not within the
overlap area, it claims.
The sanitary district was created
on Nov. 9, 1989, by the N.C. De
partment of Environment, Health
and Natural Resources, Commission
for Health Services, to provide pub
lic health services to residents in the
district, within three miles or less of
Yaupon Beach, Caswell Beach and
The complaint asks that Long
Beach be restrained from exercising
any zoning, subdivision regulation,
building code enforcement and plan
ning rules or inspections within the
It also wanLs Long Beach's entire
extraterritorial ordinance to be de
clared void, staling that any zoning
ordinance established where a dis
trict already exists is unconstitution
Long Beach adopted an ordinance
on July 16 setting boundaries for its
Then. On Sept. 9. the sanitary dis
trict board held a public hearing to
obtain comments on creating a zon
ing area, and on Sept. 24 adopted a
resolution to implement zoning.
Uist week, Brunswick County
Commissioners appointed two mem
bers to the Long Beach KTJ Plan
ning Board and Board of Adjust
ment. Walter Hill and Patricia
Helms. The town had asked for ap
pointmcnis in a resolution dated
The sanitary district claims the
overlap area is physically separated
from St. James by die run of and
marshes of Beaverdam Creek, form
ing a natural and legal butler where
no building can lake place, an aver
age of 1 ,6<X) feel.
According lo the complaint, sani
tary districts are established for any
of these purposes: lo build and oper
ate sewage systems; to provide
mosquito control and garbage col
lection; to establish fire departments
and rescue units; to adopt rules for
the promotion and protection of
public health; to establish as zoning
units any portions of the district; to
operate a water system; to construct
a non-profit ccmeiery; and to con
struct and operate a medical clinic.
Long Beach's reason for seeking
rights to the overlap area "has no
substantial relation to the public
health, safety, morals or general
welfare" of the town, the complaint
stales, and interferes with the rights
of the sanitary district.
There will be two planning and
zoning authorities in the overlap
area, "causing confusion among res
idents and citizens of the Sanitary
District" if the town's ordinance
isn't declared void, it claims. ?
Traffic accidcnt reports from the
N.C. Highway Patrol weren't avail
able this week from the agency's
Spokesperson Ruby Oakley is on
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