Draft Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan, 2013–2022
Wild turkeys, once pushed to the brink of extinction, represent one of North America's landmark wildlife management success stories. Today's healthy wild turkey populations provide many benefits for hunters, outdoor recreationists, and the general public, but may also foster concerns about crop damage, vehicle collisions, or neighborhood nuisance. With varied public values and opinions about wild turkeys (even among hunters), turkey management continues to provide challenges for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) to meet its mission of managing "wildlife... to maintain optimum populations... to serve the needs of the Commonwealth". Optimum turkey populations will balance positive demands (e.g., hunting, viewing) with negative demands (e.g., agricultural damage, other conflicts).
Embodying the interests of all citizens, the Draft Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan was developed using a stakeholder involvement process to reflect the values of a diverse public about what should be accomplished with turkey management in Virginia. Public stakeholders interested in turkeys made value choices about turkey management, while wildlife professionals focused on technical and biological aspects. While considering technical background information from VDGIF staff and public input from nine focus group meetings conducted throughout Virginia, a citizen Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) met three times to draft the values and goals found in the Draft Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan. The SAC, 13 individuals from key stakeholder groups, represented various turkey-related interests from all across the state, including public landowners, sporting interests (e.g., fall hunters, spring hunters), private landowners, non-consumptive interests, and agricultural producers.
A Turkey Technical Committee, involving VDGIF staff with technical expertise in turkey management, provided scientific and technical information. In addition to providing technical feedback to the SAC, the Turkey Technical Committee also focused on identifying the objectives and potential strategies to achieve the goals drafted by the SAC.
The Draft Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan contains two sections; the technical portion (pages 1–42), and the Values, Goals, Objectives and Strategies portion (pages 43–58). The technical portion describes wild turkey management history, life history and biology, and status (supply and demand) in Virginia. The Draft Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan includes seven value and goal areas that address populations, recreation, and human-turkey problems. Specific objectives were developed to help guide the attainment of each goal. Potential strategies suggest ways that each objective might be achieved. The specific goals are:
- Turkey Populations Goal (6 objectives, 17 potential strategies, pages 43–48): Manage turkey populations using innovative, flexible, publicly accepted, cost-effective, and technically sound practices that balance the varied needs and expectations of stakeholders statewide and locally (cultural carrying capacity).
- Turkey-Related Recreation Goal (4 objectives, 17 potential strategies, pages 48–51): Manage wild turkey-related recreation (including hunting and non-hunting recreation) to optimize the multiple factors that determine participants' satisfaction.
- Hunting Tradition Goal (2 objectives, 6 potential strategies, pages 51–52): Encourage participation in lawful methods of turkey hunting in both spring and fall in Virginia.
- Allocation of Fall Harvest Goal (2 objectives, 8 potential strategies, pages 52–54): Provide opportunities for all hunters to harvest turkeys, but with primary emphasis on hunters who specifically pursue wild turkeys while still attaining wild turkey population objectives.
- Safety Goal (2 objectives, 11 potential strategies, pages 54–55): Promote safety for hunters and non-hunters without diminishing the quality of the hunting experience.
- Ethics & Compliance with Law (2 objectives, 8 potential strategies, pages 55–56): Demand a culture of high ethical standards among hunters and develop respect for the interests of non-hunters, other hunters, and landowners, while working to reduce poaching and unethical practices.
- Human-Wild Turkey Problems (2 objectives, 8 potential strategies, pages 57–58): Reduce the negative consequences upon affected stakeholders from conflicts caused by wild turkeys through shared public/private responsibility and in a manner consistent with population and recreation objectives.
The Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan provides a blueprint for future management directions through 2022 of what needs to be done for turkey management, how it should be done, and when it should be done. By clarifying management goals and objectives, the Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan will help VDGIF Board members, VDGIF administrators, VDGIF staff, and the public to effectively address wild turkey management issues into the future.