It’s a scientific fact that turkey’s inhabiting tobacco growing areas not only eat the bugs that thrive in tobacco growing regions, but also ingest the leaves of the plants themselves. According to a study conducted at North Carolina Uni State University, it has now become a preferred food source with the ingestion of nicotine and other tobacco oil residue having a noticeable impact on the birds observed. The report stated that these birds tended to average less in weight and appeared to eat faster but less than turkeys from other regions. Heavy feeding immediately after morning breeding was noted as well.
Turkeys included in the research showed signs of nervousness with many becoming more aggressive towards each other immediately after tobacco crops were harvested. In several instances tractor operators were attacked while harvesting crops causing enclosed cabs to be required as a safety precaution. 84% of the turkeys monitored showed “withdrawal” type symptoms with wider ranges of mood swings. One section of the study mentioned gobblers fighting a hen which is unheard of in other areas. The normally light color of the meat was also darker and streaked in a number of cases and the normally white features in the wings were more of a brown shade of color with a tarry type residue.
One biologist stated that the gobbling from the birds in the area of his study had a distinctive hack mixed into the gobble. Another noted that many of the older birds appeared to drool or slobber on themselves similar to cattle.
In a bizarre case near Hickory N.C., a motorist who stopped off a rural road to empty his car ashtray was attacked suffering serious arm pecking injuries as two gobblers charged out of a ditch in what authorities believe resulted from them sensing the processed tobacco presence.
A.C.M.E Hunting Systems, an up and coming manufacturer of unique hunting systems has been aware of this phenomenon for three years and has developed a “Turkey Tobacco Camouflage” pattern that is used on a line of their clothing and Bunker Blinds. They admitted that several of their pro staffers had received numerous injuries from previous testing but that the camo worked better at getting turkeys in than any call ever made.
DNR officials are reviewing the Hickory N.C. event and A.C.M.E’s findings to determine if tobacco product possession will be outlawed for hikers and hunters in order to protect in what could be an outbreak in turkey attacks. Cigarettes and chewing tobacco may have to be left in vehicles and not allowed into WMA’s or any state owned properties.
A follow up report will be released in February of 2014 releasing the results of their findings.
OWR Reporter: Bobby Parks