Long Island may get turkey season

Stony Brook, N.Y. – A growing wild turkey population in Long
Island’s Suffolk County has DEC officials giving serious
consideration to a brief fall turkey season, perhaps even this
year.

DEC wildlife biologist Mike Schiavone said turkey numbers on
Long Island have grown steadily since a trap-and-transfer program
more than a decade ago.

“We had some restoration efforts in the early 1990s where we
trapped 75 birds from upstate New York and transferred them to
several areas of Suffolk County,” Schiavone said. “They’ve filled
in available habitat and done well there; the population is doing
really well.”

DEC officials estimate there are about 2,000 or more turkeys on
Long Island today, and that number is continuing to grow.

That’s led the department to consider a brief fall turkey hunt
this year, which would be the first ever on Long Island, Schiavone
said.

As a first step in that process, DEC is sending out about 3,000
surveys to both hunters and nonhunters to gauge public sentiment on
a proposed turkey hunt and, according to Schiavone, determine what
level of interest there is among hunters.

“We want to figure out participation rates,” he said. “There are
some large stretches of public land (inhabited by turkeys)
surrounded by residential land. Right now we’re looking at maybe
one week during the small-game season or bowhunting season.”

Schiavone said a fall season is under consideration in light of
some of the unique sociological factors that need to be taken into
account when opening a hunting season in a suburban area like
Suffolk County.

“Other individuals who are using the land for activities such as
biking, hiking and birdwatching are used to hunting activity in the
fall as opposed to the spring,” he said. “That makes a fall season
much more feasible.”

Still, Schiavone didn’t rule out a spring gobbler season on Long
Island sometime in the future. But the 2008 proposal will almost
assuredly be developed as a brief fall hunting opportunity for
turkey hunters.

Prior to formally setting a fall turkey season on Long Island,
the proposal must undergo the rulemaking process which includes a
public comment period. Schiavone said DEC officials will likely
move in that direction early this year to establish the new
season.

The hunt would likely be limited to Wildlife Management Unit 1C,
which is comprised solely of Suffolk County.

The three New York City/Long Island units – WMUs 1A, 1C and 2A –
are currently the lone areas of the state where no turkey hunting
is allowed.

New York’s turkey numbers have grown steadily, and last year’s
good spring nesting season further boosted the population, which is
estimated at about 300,000 birds statewide. Virtually all areas of
the state have huntable populations – even the Adirondack
Mountains, where pockets of birds are surviving well despite
typically harsh winter conditions.

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