The province has decided not to introduce wild turkeys to Nova Scotia.
A few years ago the Wild Turkey Federation submitted a proposal to the province seeking approval to introduce the species here. Wild turkeys are not native to Nova Scotia. After reviews by two government departments, public consultation sessions, an independent scientific review and an assessment for the risk of disease, the province has said no.The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries says the province will revisit the issue if new information is presented.
The idea of introducing wild turkeys to Nova Scotia has been raised many times by hunting interest groups for more than 40 years. However no properly prepared, scientifically researched proposal for an introduction had ever been received by the Department of Lands and Forestry (NSDNR). The Nova Scotia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) submitted their proposal in 2001. The Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry wanted to ensure a thorough, fair and objective consideration of their review, taking into account potential benefits while at the same time ensuring that potential impacts and risks had been carefully evaluated. To accomplish this a number of steps have been required.
Initially there was a two month period for public review and comment ending in October 2001. Many submissions were received from interested parties. After considering this input, Minister Fage (Minister of Lands and Forestry at the time) requested the assistance of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA) to complete an independent scientific review of NWTF's proposal and the issues raised by the public. IAFWA's report was completed in spring 2003. It identified a number of outstanding issues to be addressed and suggested some useful future steps for NSDNR. A supplemental submission by NWTF in July 2003 addressed most of the questions raised in the scientific review.
The final outstanding wildlife science/management related issue to be addressed was the need for an assessment of wildlife disease and parasite risks associated with an introduction of wild turkeys from other areas of North America. A panel of experts led by Dr. Ted Leighton of the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (CCWHC) conducted this assessment. Their report, Health Risk Assessment of the Introduction of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) to Nova Scotia, indicates that, overall, the parasite /disease risks to agricultural animals and/or wildlife are low. We have been advised by veterinary authorities that these risks can be adequately addressed by an appropriate pre-introduction testing protocol which would be set by Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (NSDAF).
In early September 2004 NSDNR convened focus group workshops involving the Nova Scotia Chapter of NWTF, various invited wildlife management and agricultural experts from Ontario and elsewhere, NSDAF, and representatives of interest groups which had expressed concerns or specific interest during the public review phase of this process e.g. naturalist groups, hunter groups, agriculture commodity groups, etc. The purpose of these workshops was to communicate new scientific/management information collected through the proposal review process, to facilitate a fuller understanding of what would be entailed in the proposed introduction, and to allow for discussion of the proposal. These sessions were successful in disseminating information and generated considerable discussion on this information, the proposed introduction, and concerns of workshop participants.
There has, of course, been great interest in this proposal by the recreational hunters of Nova Scotia, and the Department of Lands and Forestry recognizes the potential recreational and spin-off economic benefits of this introduction. However, there have also been many concerns raised and issues to be addressed. Not surprisingly there has been a diversity of opinion on this proposal. The Department of Lands and Forestry has made every effort to ensure that we have the best possible information available to facilitate a fair, well-informed decision.