September 21, 2020

NWTF Responds to the Black Bear Blog

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Just recently I wrote about how the NWTF released turkeys into the wild in Tampa and Salt Lake City as sort of a symbolic event celebrating the success of all the hard work of restoring them in the wild. This event has been going on for many years now around Thanksgiving time, and one of the biggest contreversies out there is the fact that the turkeys are not being saved and released. In fact, the turkeys are only being caught, placed in a box, and then released the next day. It is simply just a symbolic release of what the NWTF has been doing for the last 25 years. Kids and groups show up to the event. CBS even showed up, interviewed the NWTF, and reported on how they were lying to our children.

After more researching, I found people who say that the stress on the turkeys is quite dramatic, and sometimes can lead to death. Some people who even support the NWTF think that this event should be changed and that catching and releasing the wild turkey just for the sake of a learning day is not worth it. Some who I have talked to believe the event should be better planned. Maybe institute a day where turkeys were really being caught, and then reintroduced into a new area. Coordinating efforts would really need to be at its best in this case. Others felt that showing a video, giving away free memberships to the program, and doing give-aways is a better way to celebrate.

Either way, I personally felt the CBS article was extremely biased. They weren’t worried so much about the turkey, but the lying to our children. These are the same people who lie to their kids about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I felt it was more about guns and because it relates to hunting. Here is a short piece from the CBS article:

“The media that we’re doing here today is an event showing that this is what it took to bring wild turkeys back on this continent — talk about the heritage and talk about the history of this country,” Kennamer says. As for the turkey, well, he says, “he had a bad night in a box.”

So far, the kids aren’t aware they were tricked.

I emailed the NWTF and told them I supported them in their efforts, and in their programs. I am still not sure where I stand. I don’t have a problem with rehearsing and celebrating a very important part of our history. If it is true that the turkeys become so stressed that it can seriously result in death then I would want the NWTF to reconsider holding this event in the exact same manner. But overall I still am very supportive of what they do.

But here is the response I got from Tammy Sapp, Senior Vice President of Communications for the NWTF.

Steven,

Thank you very much for your support. The story was a very distorted piece
of editing from a reporter that did not read our press release and was
obviously against hunting. (See Tampa Tribune article below). What’s even
more frustrating is Dr. James Earl Kennamer spoke to the reporter at length
the night before the release so he did understand it was a symbolic release
to celebrate this restoration success story. But he chose to file a story
that was biased and inaccurate.

We’ve been doing wild turkey releases at Thanksgiving for many years now as
a way to focus on the good things hunters and wildlife professionals have
done for wild turkey restoration. Prior to Thanksgiving, the media is
looking for a story about wild turkeys. We’ve provided them with that
through these wild turkey releases as well as an opportunity to get our
message out about hunters and wildlife restoration. And, 99 percent of the
time, we’ve received positive stories in newspapers and TV about the work of
our members and partners. There will always be reporters who will twist our
message because they don’t like hunting. However, we can’t let that stop us
from continuing to try to get the word out. The hunting community has long
said we shouldn’t just preach to the choir, and I plan to continue telling
the nonhunting public about the millions of dollars hunters have spent for
wildlife conservation.

Your words of support had a healing quality and I appreciate your efforts!

Best Regards,

Tammy Sapp
Senior Vice President/Communications
National Wild Turkey Federation
803-637-3106

sports.tbo.com/sports

TV Reporter Wields Hatchet Against Turkey Federation
By FRANK SARGEANT
Published: Nov 19, 2006

In a story he called “The Great Turkey Rescue That Wasn’t,” CBS
national news reporter Steve Hartman did a hatchet job on the National
Wild Turkey Federation on Friday’s evening news, based on an event that
brought the reporter to Tampa last week.

Hartman, like many other reporters, was invited to a symbolic turkey
release at Two Rivers Ranch near Thonotosassa to celebrate the
restoration of the wild turkey across America, mostly funded by
hunters.

Hartman got the same press release everyone else did-in fact, he showed
it on the air. But apparently Hartman didn’t have time to read any
farther than the headline – he got the idea that wild turkeys were to
be released into some sort of preserve where they could live happily
ever after, and came primed to do that story – a “turkeys reprieved at
Thanksgiving” tale of the sort that is so popular with TV stations at
this time of year.

In fact, limited hunting is allowed on Two Rivers, and that didn’t sit
right with Hartman.

He totally ignored the thrust of the event, which was to point out that
wild turkey numbers nationwide have come back from fewer than 30,000 to
more than 7 million thanks to transplants, as illustrated in the Two
Rivers release.

The restocking programs have been paid for almost entirely by hunting
license fees, excise taxes on hunting gear, and donations from the
National Wild Turkey Federation, a hunting/conservation organization.

Instead, Hartman homed in on the fact that the turkeys were trapped and
kept overnight in release boxes, then released into areas where some of
them might eventually wind up being taken by hunters.

Of course, Hartman did not get the fact that hunting has been allowed
on this particular ranch for more than 40 years, and that it has
perhaps the most dense turkey population in the state despite the
controlled hunts.

Hartman said that the turkeys had been “abducted” and also that they
had been “kidnapped,” and that he “felt bad for the turkeys.”

Fortunately, 13 of the trapped turkeys were released without incident,
and most are probably back sitting on their roosts along Blackwater
Creek this morning.

All except one, that is. That would be the gobbler that ran into the
fence.

For reasons known only to Hartman, when a big gobbler was released, he
laid down his camera and began to sprint after the bird. The turkey
wasn’t about to be caught by a guy from New York with a doughnut around
his middle, of course, but in running away from Hartman it ran full
tilt into a barbed wire fence.

Feathers and blood flew. The turkey made it through the fence and
wobbled off toward a nearby cypress head, drooping one wing and
limping. That gobbler probably wound up as coyote food shortly after
sundown – nature does not provide much slack for the infirm.

For some reason, the footage from that part of the “Great Turkey
Release That Wasn’t” didn’t make the air.

Like many, I have admired the often funny, whimsical or touching
stories generated by Steve Hartman in his travels around the nation.
But this time he wandered far off the track and insulted both the NWTF
and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, without the
likes of which there would be no wild turkeys anywhere in the nation
these days, and missed an opportunity to share a story that should have
been told to the national audience of CBS.

Tammy Sapp
Senior Vice President/Communications
National Wild Turkey Federation
803-637-3106

Steven Remington

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