Wild turkey habitat program continues

From left are Northern Neck Wild Turkey Federation volunteer Tami McCauley, Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Neck staff member Dale Taylor, Kimorea Taylor, Tahlia Sutton, J’den Cuffee, Zahim Churchill, Auriannia Henderson-Jones, and Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Neck staff members Sheena Hebbons and Ty Laws.

The Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Neck (BGCNN), the Northern Neck Wild Turkey Association (NNWTA) and Belle Isle State Park wild turkey habitat program continues.

“Every fall for the past three years, youth from the BGCNN have worked with the NNWTA and Belle Isle State Park to restore an old field as a natural habitat for wild turkeys,” said BGCNN board member and project volunteer Jeff Wainscott. “The goal has been to establish a natural environment that will provide food and shelter so wild turkeys will return and prosper.

“When NNWTA volunteer, Stu Kramer, suggested the project several years ago, we consulted with local forester Rich Steensma, who suggested Belle Isle State Park as a good location,” said Wainscott.

“Sean Dixon, the head ranger of the Park at that time, enthusiastically agreed to the project and chose an area on the Brewer’s Trail.”

The children have planted more than 80 native chinquapin and hazelnut trees, said Wainscott. Each tree sapling is carefully placed and the roots covered. They are then encased in a translucent tube attached to a stake to protect them from deer and other wildlife, and finally a 3 foot by 3 foot piece of landscape cloth is placed around each tree to inhibit the growth of weeds.

Head ranger Jon Steele along with park rangers Katie Shepard and David Beck, maintain the area and have been instrumental in the project’s success. The staff at Belle Isle State Park are also in the process of developing interpretive signage that will explain the nature of the project and the partnership between the BGCNN, the NNWTA and the park that made it all possible.

The trees were provided by the NNWTA from Conservation Resources, Inc.

While the area has now been fully planted, youth will continue to monitor the trees annually and replace any casualties in order to ensure that the project succeeds and that the wild turkeys will return.

Each year on planting day, the children are treated to breakfast at Lee’s Restaurant in Kilmarnock where they also enjoy educational lessons full of fun facts about turkeys by members of the NNWTA.