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Wildlife Commission Asks Hunters to Help with Wild Turkey Virus Research

RALEIGH, N.C. (April 2, 2015) The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking the assistance of turkey hunters with a study of North Carolina’s wild turkey population.

Successful hunters who want to participate are asked to remove the un-feathered portion of a lower leg, place it in a sealable plastic bag labeled with the county where killed, date taken, beard length, spur length, sex of the turkey (bearded hens are lawful harvest) and the Big Game Harvest ID number. Samples should be frozen as soon as possible and can be submitted at any time during the 2015 wild turkey season by calling 919-707-0050. Hunters will be directed to mail the samples or arrange for pick-up by agency staff.

The statewide spring hunting season for wild turkeys — male or bearded turkeys only — runs April 11 through May 9. A youth-only turkey hunting season is April 4-10.

The Wildlife Commission will use samples to study the distribution of lymphoproliferative disease virus (LPDV). Wild turkeys that carry the virus may exhibit outward signs similar to those of avian pox, including nodules around the head and feet, weakness, lethargy and disorientation. There is no evidence LPDV poses a threat to human health, but hunters should wear latex gloves and eye protection when dressing any wild game, including wild turkey, and avoid getting fluids around eyes, nose, mouth or open cuts.

The virus was first recognized in domestic turkeys in the United Kingdom in 1972 and later in domestic turkeys in Europe and Asia. The first documented cases of the virus in North America occurred in wild turkeys in 2009. It has since been found throughout the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast.

In North Carolina, there have been six documented cases of wild turkeys exhibiting symptoms. Diagnostic testing in 2013 of more than 200 hunter-killed turkeys that were not exhibiting symptoms revealed that many of these birds had been exposed to the disease previously.

This year, the Wildlife Commission plans to collect and test samples from 500 hunter-killed wild turkeys to determine the prevalence rate and distribution of the virus in North Carolina.

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