VERMONT, ME -- The restocking of wild turkeys - once nearly wiped off America's landscape - has been a conservation success story.
But has this program become too successful? Some people, especially in Maine, think so.
Turkeys had nearly disappeared from the Pine Tree State in the early 1800s, said Brad Allen, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. It took 150 years before someone did something about it. In 1977, 41 turkeys were brought in from Vermont.
The flock in Maine is now estimated at more than 60,000 and growing - good news for Thanksgiving tables but bad news for those who have seen the turkeys destroy their crops or damage their expensive landscaping.
"One man's pleasure is somebody else's pain," Allen said. "Turkeys ... are moving into new habitat close to where people live. We get calls of turkeys roosting on cars and leaving droppings."
Across the USA, turkeys have made a remarkable comeback. About 40 years ago, 1.3 million of them dotted the landscape, said James Earl Kennamer, chief conservation officer for the National Wild Turkey Federation. Today, 7 million do. Turkeys have established flocks in 49 states. Only Alaska is turkey-free.
As one means of dealing with the surge, Maine has lengthened its fall turkey hunting season, which runs from Oct. 3 through Nov. 1. Hunters can take two birds during the season, where it used to be one-and-done.
Though turkeys garner many complaints, they might just be a convenient fall guy, Allen said.
"Turkeys are ... active during the day," he said. "Most of the crop damage reports we have received have been proven to be the result of racoons, foxes and other animals that usually are active at night. But if a blueberry farmer sees 16 turkeys stand up in a blueberry patch and one has a blueberry in her beak, oops."
Farmers in Maine don't like the birds, said Jeff Timberlake, a Republican congressman and apple producer in Turner, Maine.
"A flock of 20 turkeys can go down a row in the orchard and peck an apple here or an apple there, and destroy $10,000 in apples in an hour," Timberlake said.