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Conservation Spotlight: Ontario, Canada

In 1987, three years after the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) released the first wild turkeys seen in the province in nearly 80 years, Ontario held its first spring gobbler season.

Kevin Townsend drew one of only 500 turkey tags available that year. A first-time turkey hunter, Townsend, helped by beginners luck, bagged his first gobbler before the sun finished rising.

"When that turkey flew down in front of me, less than 25 yards away, I thought `there isn't anything hard to this turkey hunting'," said Townsend, who was the first person to kill a wild turkey in Ontario since 1907. "Today, I know how challenging the sport can be!"

Hoping to help improve turkey hunting in the Canadian provinces, Townsend joined the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) in 1995 and was hired as Ontario's regional director three years later.

The success of the wild turkey in Ontario resulted from the OMNR and NWTF's aggressive trap-and-transfer programs. Since 1984, more than 1,200 birds have been trapped in the United States and transferred to Ontario. Thousands more have been transferred from within the province.

Ontario's restoration project created excellent opportunities for turkey hunters. Today, any hunter who has completed the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Wild Turkey Seminar can hunt and take two wild turkeys.

"Ontario benefited from states that have been restoring turkeys for 50 or more years," said Joel Pedersen, Canadian wild turkey programs biologist for the NWTF. "This allowed Ontario to be more liberal in their efforts and gave them a lot of confidence."

The NWTF Canada chapter has spent nearly $400,000 dollars to help Ontario restore wild turkeys and pass on Canada's hunting heritage. The money has supported turkey relocations, habitat enhancements and education and outreach efforts designed to involve more women and children in hunting and wildlife conservation.

"Ontario has the most turkey hunting opportunities of any province in Canada," said Pedersen "Ontario has done so well, it is now helping Quebec with its restoration efforts. We helped move 54 wild turkeys to Quebec from Ontario in 2003, and we hope to be able to send more in the future."



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