From left: Becky Humphries (CEO of NWTF); Sean Pendleton, Ricky Rutherford, Eric Mathiesen, Kyle Magdziuk, Annelyse Matzinger, Haley Frederick, Austin Zweck, Ben Kercewich, Alex Walczyk, Marvin Hartley (Chairman of the NWTF Board)
SUNY Cobleskill’s National Wildlife Turkey Federation Chapter has received the national organization’s L.A. Dixon Award for Highest Membership by a collegiate chapter. The student group received the award at the 42nd annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show held February 14-18, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. Accompanying them to Nashville was their advisor Mark Kiburz, a Fisheries and Wildlife Technician at the College, who observed: “They do an amazing job and are an inspiration to all of the student groups on our campus.”
The College’s NWTF Chapter was established in 2013 by Dr. Mike Losito, a wildlife biologist specializing in Ornithology and Herpetology and professor in SUNY Cobleskill’s Fish, Wildlife, and Environmental Sciences program. By 2016, the group had already been named “Outstanding Chapter of the Year” in New York State in recognition of its work in conservation service and community education, which includes volunteering at “Jakes” events (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics, and Sportsmanship) and “Women in the Outdoors” events. In winning the 2016 honor, the Chapter competed against 46 other chapters across New York, many of them long-standing groups comprised of professionals in the field. In 2017, they were recognized for selling over 20 banquet sponsorships, and in March 2018, they raised over $7,500 for wild turkey conservation, a significant increase from the total of $1,800 they raised in 2017.
The NWTF was founded in 1973 and is dedicated “to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage.” In New York State, wild turkeys had been absent for 100 years when they began to reappear in 1948. From an estimated population of 30,000 in the 1970s, wild turkeys reached over 180,000 in recent years. Poor habitat quality, harsh winters, and predation are factors limiting the population.