Colorado lets hunters gobble up more wild turkeys

Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:28am EST
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By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - The reintroduction of wild turkeys in Colorado has proven so successful that flocks of the gobblers are intruding on farms and ranches, prompting wildlife managers to expand hunting of the iconic American bird on private lands.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has adopted new regulations in two northeastern Colorado counties allowing increased hunting of the birds where they have raided grain silos, eaten hay left by ranchers for livestock or dug up crops.

Hunters can now target beardless turkeys - hens or juvenile males called jakes - into the late hunting season, so long as the landowner grants permission. Licensed turkey hunting had been limited mostly to adult male birds, or toms.

The new rules were prompted by complaints of turkeys congregating at feeding troughs and contaminating cattle feed with droppings, a problem that has grown acute in late fall and early winter when forage becomes scarce.

"The goal is to minimize those conflicts," said Theo Stein, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Once numbering in the millions along the riverbeds of Colorado's eastern plains, wild turkeys were hunted to near extinction by the 1920s. Colorado officials began aggressively reintroducing turkeys to their ancestral range in the 1980s.

There are now between 25,000 and 30,000 wild turkeys in 53 of Colorado's 64 counties.