Saturday, April 01, 2006

Couldn't resist this title...

Love-struck males are increasingly smitten by cars

By JEN FISH, Portland Press Herald Writer
Friday, March 31, 2006

It's tough out there for a turkey.

Male wild turkeys, which must perform elaborate courtship rituals to attract females, are facing an even more difficult hurdle to finding love this spring mating season: the Maine Turnpike.

At least six male turkeys presumably on the prowl have met an untimely end on the turnpike this month, prompting state police to warn motorists to add another wild animal to their potential driving hazards.

Most of the accidents have occurred in the stretch of road between Gray and Lewiston, said Stephen McCausland, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman.

"There have been about a half-dozen collisions in the last month," he said. The most recent accident occurred Wednesday.

"The turkey didn't make it," McCausland said. "The turkeys, fortunately, have not caused any injury but are probably the last thing you would expect when driving on the turnpike."

Trooper Robert Andreasen, who patrols the highway south of Lewiston, has responded to three turkey collisions in the past two weeks. He said he has seen more of the birds during his patrols over the past few years.

Andreasen said motorists should be aware of the increase and that "they might fly up on you."

Drivers such as Terina Dobson of Portland are already on the lookout.

Dobson said she visits friends in Sabattus several times a week and always sees the birds resting on the side of the road on the southbound side between Auburn and the New Gloucester tollbooth.

"Knock on wood, they've been staying on the side of the road," she said.

Wild turkeys have made a big comeback in Maine. They were all but extinct here in the early 1800s, said Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spokesman Mark Latti. The birds were reintroduced by the state in the early 20th century, but were not successfully re-established until the late 1970s.

Since then, the population of wild turkeys has steadily increased to the point that the turkey hunting season, once determined by a lottery, was opened to all who purchased a license last year.

Latti said the state estimates there are between 17,000 and 20,000 turkeys. Although that number may seem high, he said, the birds remain outnumbered by moose, deer and bears.

But as the numbers have increased, the state has allowed more and more people to hunt them. Last year, 23,951 permits were issued, compared to 15,600 in 2004.

Male turkeys are generally 3 to 4 feet long, with a 5-foot wing span and weigh between 16 and 25 pounds. The females are much smaller, weighing between 9 and 11 pounds.

Most turkeys searching for mates should be off the roads by the end of May, Latti said.

Staff Writer Jen Fish can be contacted at 282-8229 or at:
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