AUGUSTA, Maine — Due to the impact of this year’s severe winter in northern Maine, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and wildlife has suspended the spring wild turkey hunt in portions of northern Maine, specifically Wildlife Management Districts 1-6. The spring turkey season will remain unchanged in all other areas of the state.
“Late winter can be the most critical period for wild turkeys, and unfortunately March of 2014 has been challenging for turkeys in Northern Maine,” said Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In fact, the National Weather Service ranked March 2014 in northern Maine as the third snowiest March on record.
“This winter has taken a toll on younger wild turkeys, including hens. A spring hunting season in addition to the severe winter could impact not only this turkey season, but future seasons as well,” said Woodcock.
IFW wildlife biologists believe the northern Maine wild turkey population has potentially sustained above-average winter mortality rates. Perhaps more significantly, much of northern Maine is still blanketed in snow.
The wild turkey population in northern Maine is more vulnerable to severe winters as it is not as well established as wild turkeys in other parts of the state.
“Wild turkeys breed in April and May, and there is still over two feet of snow in the northern Maine woods, and 80 percent of our fields are snow-covered, making nesting conditions extremely difficult for turkeys,” said IFW Wildlife Biologist Rich Hoppe.
Wild turkeys nest on the ground at the base of trees or near brush piles. The snow, excessive water and the late spring will delay nesting as well as impacting overall nesting success.
Wild turkeys had vanished from the Maine landscape, but a wild turkey reintroduction program initiated in the mid-1970s in York County by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife began the process of restoring wild turkeys throughout their historical range in Maine.
Careful stewardship and partnerships with outdoor groups and landowners has expanded the range of wild turkeys in Maine, including northern Maine. This past fall, the department expanded turkey hunting opportunities to include the entire state, including northern Maine.