From staff reports
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) is frequently contacted concerning wild turkey nests that appear to be abandoned, resulting in concern for the welfare of the nest and eggs.
However, SCDNR makes it clear in a recent media release that it is against the law to rob any wild turkey nests or to possess wild turkey eggs.
In South Carolina, nesting by wild turkeys typically begins in mid-April and continues through May, with most poults hatching by mid-June. Farmers who are cutting and baling hay are likely to see the nests/eggs as turkeys nest around the same time. Although hens are occasionally killed by the equipment, many times they are simply flushed from the nest and typically do not return because there is no cover left in the field once the hay is cut.
Hens also continue to roost in trees as normal while laying and do not begin continuous incubation until all egg laying is complete. That being the case, finding an unattended turkey nest is not uncommon. Once again, concern for the welfare of the nest and eggs leads individuals to take the eggs and attempt to care for them.
Laws prohibiting robbing turkey nests and possessing eggs are in place for a good reason. Wild turkeys that are hatched by humans lose virtually all the instincts that allow them to survive in the wild. Additionally, many attempts to hatch eggs are for the purpose of raising the birds to be released to increase local turkey populations. However, not only do these pen-raised turkeys have poor survival, they are often commingled with other domestic fowl which may harbor diseases that could be detrimental to wild turkeys in the area if the pen-raised birds escape or are released.
State law also prohibits the release of pen-raised turkeys into the wild.
Purchasing “wild” strain turkeys that are for sale by poultry hatcheries is also illegal since it is unlawful to import any wild turkey into the state.