Cumberland Times-News

May 25, 2014

Spring Gobbler


Cumberland Times-News

Times-News Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers bagged a spring gobbler on Dan’s Mountain this year with a beard broken off at 3.5 inches, though several of the beard’s feathers or hairs extend to 8 inches. Bob Long, wild turkey project manager for the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service, said the gobbler had beard rot and that he has received numerous reports of such beards this spring. “Although some beards do break off from ice and snow accumulation, this bird is not likely one of them. If there is yellowing at the ends of the broken hairs it indicates a lack of melanin while the beard was growing. The beard gets brittle at that point and breaks easily. Researchers are not clear what causes the lack of melanin production, but it is likely some type of nutritional stress,” Long said. “And while it seems that this would happen during the winter and would be worse after bad winters, the distance between the yellow area and skin suggests that it probably occurs in the late summer or fall. We get a lot of calls from hunters about it, but unfortunately it is a condition that doesn’t seem to be very well-understood. Usually the birds appear healthy and have no other problems.”