ATLANTA — Larry Perrin of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was honored with the prestigious Henry S. Mosby Award at the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) annual Convention and Sport Show in Atlanta, Ga., held Feb. 21 to Feb. 24.
Perrin, a resident of Crawfordsville, has spent more than 30 years working tirelessly on the research and management of the wild turkey for the FWC. His efforts have been instrumental in the continued restoration of the Osceola subspecies wild turkey in the Everglades National Park, and the restoration of the eastern subspecies of the wild turkey in Holmes County.
“Larry has shown unequaled dedication to conservation and wild turkeys throughout his career,” said Dr. James Earl Kennamer, NWTF senior vice president for conservation programs. “He is a major reason why residents in Holmes County, visitors in the Everglades National Park and turkey enthusiasts in the State of Florida are able to enjoy the sights and sounds of wild turkeys today.”
In 2006, Perrin was proud to announce the reopening of Holmes County for turkey hunting for the first time since 1998. The FWC closed wild turkey hunting in Holmes County due to a perilous drop in turkey numbers. Under Perrin’s guidance, and with the support from the citizens of Holmes County and surrounding counties, the FWC and local chapter members of the NWTF, they mapped out a restoration project to improve turkey habitat within the county and restock the turkey population. The project released more than 120 wild turkeys at eight locations throughout the county, and the agency imposed a ban on turkey hunting until its biologists determined the population could sustain hunting.
Everglades National Park was established in 1947 to protect the rich resources of South Florida’s subtropical wilderness wetlands, particularly the diverse and abundant bird populations. Birds have always been one of the park’s principal attractions. Unfortunately, the Osceola subspecies of the wild turkey was noticeably absent. The wild turkey population in the park dropped after the 1950s due in part to illegal hunting and habitat loss. An attempt was made to reintroduce wild turkeys to the Long Pine Key area of the park in 1971 and possibly in the early 1960s, as well. These attempts failed.
In 2000, a team of wildlife biologists, including Perrin and the late Dr. George Dalrymple, also from the FWC, the Homestead Chapter of the NWTF, the U.S. Park Service and private landowners, such as the Lykes Brothers Ranch, spearheaded the effort to restore the wild turkey population at Everglades National Park. The team used bait and rocket nets to catch 29 Osceola turkeys at private ranches for release in the Long Pine Key section of the park.
In 2006 the same group of cooperators released 19 turkeys into Everglades National Park in a continued effort to restore the struggling population. While many think of wetlands when it comes to the restoration of Everglades National Park, the upland areas are also critical to the health of the Everglades ecosystem. The restoration of the Osceola subspecies of the wild turkey will not only herald the return of this grand bird to an important part of Florida, but will also show how leaders, like Perrin, can bring together both public and private resources in accomplishing great things for the future of the wild turkey and the restoration of Everglades National Park.
Since 1985, the NWTF’s volunteers in cooperation with the FWC have spent nearly $2 million habitat enhancement, wild turkey research, law enforcement and outreach programs. NWTF’s efforts include more than $771,609 on habitat improvement projects for maintenance and development of brood habitat, wildlife openings, prescribed fire, tree planting, riparian restoration, water development projects, control of invasive plant species and support for seed subsidy and conservation seed programs — improving habitat for more than 504,298 acres within the state.
The Mosby Award is named for Dr. Henry Mosby, whose research with wild turkeys in the early 1900s set the standard for their management. He also helped found The Wildlife Society and was the winner of its highest honor – the Aldo Leopold Medal