46 Wild Turkeys Released in Utah

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On Nov. 16, more than 200 local students and wild turkey enthusiasts watched 46 wild turkeys fly to new habitat in Coons Canyon on Kennecott property in the Oquirrh Mountains overlooking Salt Lake City.

The event was hosted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), Kennecott Copper Corporation (KUCC), Kennecott Land Corporation and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). The event helped demonstrate how wildlife agencies are continuing to work with conservation groups and corporate partners to restore wild turkey populations throughout North America and highlighted how well wildlife responds to management on mining lands.

Many of the students and other attendees actually participated in the educational Thanksgiving event by holding and releasing the wild turkeys.

In 1984, when the NWTF started its first chapter in Utah, there were less than 1,000 wild turkeys in the state. More than 20 years later, Utah has more than 18,000 wild turkeys.

"Utah has one of the fastest growing wild turkey populations in the country," said Dean Mitchell, upland game coordinator for the DWR. "Wild turkeys are doing really well here."

Part of the reason for the fast growth is an aggressive effort to trap and transplant turkeys. From 1998 through 2005, the DWR and its partners set a national record by placing more than 7,700 turkeys into new homes in Utah. Many of these birds were brought in from outside the state. The remainder already lived in the state, but they were moved to new locations to start new populations or supplement existing ones.

"Wild turkeys are a huge wildlife success story in Utah," Mitchell said. "Hundreds of people across the state are hearing and seeing these birds during their trips outdoors, and more and more hunters are applying for a permit to hunt them."

The release was a celebration of the contributions made by hunters across North America on behalf of wild turkey restoration and wildlife conservation. The NWTF and its partners have given wildlife agencies more than 139,000 wild turkey transport boxes to transport more than 188,000 birds.

This event is the second time in five years that KUCC has partnered with the DWR and the NWTF to release wild turkeys. The first release was in a reclaimed mining area on private Kennecott property in Butterfield Canyon (southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley).

"Kennecott Utah Copper has spent over $350 million in reclaiming historic mining wastes on our property," said Larry D. Bunkall, assistant director government and public affairs for KUCC. "Old mine sites have been restored as beautiful mountain slopes and settings where natural wildlife is thriving. Following reclamation in Butterfield Canyon, wild turkeys were released and flocks are commonly sighted by visitors as they drive the canyon road today. Kennecott Utah Copper is committed to managing and protecting wildlife on our property."

A long-standing example of hunters' contributions to wildlife management is the Pittman-Robertson Act. Passed by the U.S. Congress at the requests of hunters in 1937, this excise tax established a dedicated revenue stream to aid states in wildlife restoration. A study commissioned by the NWTF in 2003 found that 78 percent of turkey hunters considered conservation projects, such as protecting or enhancing wildlife habitat, to be very important.

"People get involved in hunting and other outdoor activities for a number of reasons, but it's almost certain that once a person spends time in the woods or on the water, they begin to care about their natural resources and will likely become dedicated conservationists," said Rob Keck, chief executive officer of the NWTF. "With the help of conservation-minded sportsmen, today there are more than 7 million wild turkeys throughout North America. That's why our hunting heritage is important, not only to hunters, but to all Americans."

Hunters also contribute millions of dollars to organizations like the NWTF that fund wildlife restoration and conservation projects throughout the country. These efforts not only benefit wildlife, but the sustainability of all natural resources.

According to data collected by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, sportsmen are among the most prominent and influential of all demographic groups. Sportsmen pour $70 billion annually into the economy and support more jobs nationwide than the number of people employed by Wal-Mart, the country's largest corporation.