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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

May, 2006

Wild Turkeys Don't Eat Grapes
By Submission

Vineyard owners in California, New York, Virginia and Connecticut, four states famous for producing wine, can rest easier knowing wild turkeys are not to blame for crop depredation.
Many locals, including wildlife enthusiasts and hunters, are pleased to see wild turkeys hanging around. Some vineyard owners, however, have accused wild turkeys of eating grapes.

To learn more, the National Wild Turkey Federation partnered with state wildlife agencies to gather evidence and study the habits of native wildlife. A California study was completed in 2002 and 2003, and studies were repeated in New York and Connecticut in 2004.

In the 2002-2003 California study, 39 remote cameras were placed at various locations within the vineyards where damage was identified. Much like the 2002 study, 67 cameras were used in New York and Connecticut. Both daytime and nighttime activity were photographed.

Wild turkeys made up 45 percent of total wildlife seen in California, yet only 7 percent of wild turkeys were observed eating grapes. Other results from California included:

16 percent of photographed animals were deer. Of those deer, 21 percent were observed eating grapes.

4 percent were foxes with nearly 38 percent eating grapes.

70 percent of ground squirrels (40 animals) and raccoons (37 animals) were observed dining on grapes.

In the New York and Connecticut study, the results were very similar:

257 of 470 animals photographed were deer.

Deer made up 65 percent of depredating wildlife.

The second highest culprits for depredation were raccoons with 31 percent of the 93 animals photographed eating grapes.

105 wild turkeys were photographed and only two (3 percent) were observed eating grapes.

"The cameras captured wild turkeys in the vineyards in all three states and many times they were actually feeding on insects harmful to grape crops," said NWTF biologist Tom Hughes after reviewing photographs taken during the studies. "Only a small percentage of wild turkeys, however, were seen eating wine grapes, especially compared to the other species recorded."

While the turkeys were seen during the daytime, most crop damage occurred at night. Wild turkeys typically fly to their roost trees before sunset, remaining there throughout the night.

"Thanks to the study, wine growers and other residents of the regions will have new insight on how wild turkeys and other wildlife affect their lifestyles and vocations," said Hughes. "People who see flocks of wild turkeys walking through their grapes have assumed the turkeys were responsible for the depredation. Thanks to these studies, we can show deer, raccoons and other wildlife are eating the grapes at night. The study is a real eye-opener."

For more information about the NWTF, call (800) THE-NWTF.



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