Someone Released 25 Turkeys on Public Land. Officials Want to Find Out Who

by Vern Evans

Wildlife officials in Nevada are trying to get to the bottom of an illegal release of approximately 25 turkeys on the Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area earlier this month. They are now asking for the public’s help in identifying whoever was responsible for putting the birds there on April 9.

Staff members at the WMA contacted the Nevada Department of Wildlife after finding the group of the turkeys near the south end of Nesbitt Lake. Game wardens investigated and spoke with a witness who said they saw a white truck pulling a horse trailer in that direction that day, according to a press release from NDOW. Wardens also acquired security footage from a local convenience store that shows the same truck and trailer stopping for gas at 1 p.m. before heading in the direction of the WMA, which lies about 110 miles north of Las Vegas.

“Unfortunately, the video does not have a clear view of the license plate or the persons in question,” NDOW explained in the press release. “Game wardens believe the suspects are from Clark County as they arrived from the south and headed back the same way.”

The same press release included a photo of the truck and trailer in question, along with a security camera photo of one of the passengers, a middle-aged woman wearing a camo t-shirt.

It’s unknown if there is additional evidence connecting the white truck and trailer with the illegal release. NDOW did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the agency didn’t mention whether the witness claimed to have seen any turkeys inside the truck or trailer.

“Our hope is that someone might have seen or heard something or might recognize the vehicle from the photo,” game warden lieutenant John Anderson said in the press release. “At this time of year those turkeys would have been making a whole lot of noise. Maybe there’s a neighbor who notices a sudden drop in noise coming from over the fence. You never know what might be helpful.”

It’s also unclear if the released birds were wild or domestic turkeys. NDOW game division administrator Shawn Espinosa said they could be either. Espinosa said that regardless of their origin, the agency’s main concern is that the released birds are carrying a disease that could affect wild bird populations in the area. He added that because the turkeys were probably habituated to humans, they’re unlikely to survive for long. He did not mention whether game wardens have tried or would attempt to remove the turkeys from the WMA.

Read Next: Are People Illegally Sneaking Walleye into an Idaho Lake?

State fish and game agencies deal with these illegal releases on occasion, although they often come in the form of aquatic species introduced by anglers (also known as “bucket biologists”) looking to improve the fishing in their local waters. Under Nevada law, a first offense of illegal wildlife introduction is a misdemeanor that carries a fine between $25,000 and $250,000.

Although wild turkeys are not native to the Silver State, Nevada is now home to both the Merriam’s and Rio Grande subspecies. The state first introduced Merriam’s turkeys during the 1960s, and it’s been releasing Rio Grande birds into different parts of the state since the late 1980s, according to the Nevada Appeal.

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