Wild turkeys flocking to Muskoka cause danger
A wild turkey did quite a bit of damage to this truck windshield after the bird made its way onto Highway 60 near Dwight.
Tamara de la Vega
Wild turkeys are being spotted in flocks across Muskoka.
LAKE OF BAYS – Beware the wild turkey.
Lake of Bays resident Bill Cunnington got more than a bit of a shock when a wild turkey slammed into his truck windshield while travelling about 70 kilometers an hour down Highway 60 in heavy traffic. He also got a hefty windshield repair bill.
Cunnington, who escaped without injury, said the turkey may have ricocheted off a vehicle heading in the opposite direction before it landed on his truck, which would account for the severity of the impact and shattered glass in front of the driver’s seat.
He said he had seen flocks of the birds not only along the highway, but also in trees on his property.
And he isn’t the only one.
Ministry of Natural Resources biologist Jan McDonnell said reports of wild turkeys are coming from across the region. People are seeing them everywhere, though mostly in rural settings rather than urban ones, she said.
“It’s just not surprising anymore at all to see wild turkeys,” said McDonnell.
She said the spike in wild turkey populations in the region has to do largely with human intervention and warmer weather.
“Turkeys, way back in the early 1900s, were basically extirpated from Ontario. There was a reintroduction program in the ‘70s and ‘80s to reintroduce wild turkeys back into Ontario. They used turkeys from the United States,” she said.
Although those turkeys were not released in Muskoka they have since migrated north, said McDonnell.
“They were released just south of the Severn River area and they’ve just naturally expanded into our area,” she said. “And they’re going to do really well here. They do particularly well when we have mild winters.”
The past winter was relatively mild and short, so the wild turkey population is now booming.
“They seem to have responded to that really mild winter and early spring,” said McDonnell. “It probably meant they survived winter really well. And spring came early, which is always good for them and hatching success probably ended up being really excellent.”
However, the increased population doesn’t necessarily mean a trend toward ever increasing flock sizes. A cold, prolonged winter could reduce a population just as quickly as a warm, short one can increase it.
But in the meantime, McDonnell cautioned motorist to remain vigilant while driving. If a flock is spotted, she recommended the driver slow down and pay attention to it because one never knows when a wild turkey could get spooked or take off.
And for those who are thinking about wild turkeys for the Thanksgiving table, think again. McDonnell noted that the hunting season for wild turkey south of Highway 60 is in the spring, not the fall.