Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wild Turkeys

Most of today was consumed by glamorous work that all naturalists likely leave out of their career day presentations...we moved refrigerators. We hauled a donated refrigerator in the back of pickup truck from Mt. Pleasant to the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. Nothing like the rollercoaster-like I-526 bridge over the Wando River and the high winds of the stratosphere (that's where we felt we were) to test one's confidence in commercial straps and Boy Scout knots!

We made the refrigerator transfer because the refrigerator in the log cabin actually expired during the Clinton administration. Therefore, we put the donated refrigerator in the nature center, moved the current nature center refrigerator to the log cabin, and sent the log cabin's refrigerator to the white goods section of the county waste collection site. We can guarantee that this part of the job won't come up at tomorrow's Devon Forest Elementary School career day.

In the few minutes between loading refrigerators on and off the pickup truck, we were able to grab lunch and check out the latest issue of South Carolina Wildlife. Den Latham's "Talkin' Turkey" discusses the decline and resurgence of the population of South Carolina's state game bird, the Eastern Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallapavo silvestris). Habitat loss, especially from cotton farming, and overhunting brought the state's population of turkeys to below 30,000. As farms were abandoned when soils ceased to be productive or eroded as in the Upstate, reforestation occurred. Wildlife managers from the Department of Natural Resources began takign birds from the Francis Marion Forest and relocating the animals across the state. Now, every county in the state can report a population of Eastern Wild Turkey.

Turkeys still face threats. Wet weather during the breeding season can cause polts to die of hyperthermia or cause the hen's scent to be stronger and more easily detectable by predators. Feral pigs, non-native and destructive scurge in all habitats of South Carolina, can eat turkey eggs and food items as well as destroy turkey habitat. Finally, the reduction in burning prevents the critical open understory which turkeys need for foraging and avoiding predators. Although the swamp seldom burns, the mature, old-growth forest at the Francis Beidler Forest provides the open understory and the turkey population is quite healthy. The images show a group of eight turkeys moving through the parking lot and down into the swamp. They apparently do not like to get their feet wet as they waited patiently for their turn to use a log to cross the wettest portion of the swamp.

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