VDGIF Conservationist Gobbles Up Prestigious Award


While travelling back from WCHG on Route 220 last week, I had a very enjoyable experience. I came across a large flock of wild turkeys scratching for food in the woods alongside the road – I actually turned the car around, and managed to get a couple pictures, although not very good ones, that accompany this story on our website.

Seeing wild turkeys is a much more common occurrence these days, a welcome change from recent years, when their population had declined. And part of that resurgence can be credited to a man with ties to our area.

“My name is Gary Norman, Forest Game Bird Project Leader for Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. My office is in Verona, although I work a lot of the time my time now out of my home office in Winchester, so I’m back and forth.

“My primary responsibilities are for wild turkey and ruffed grouse conservation efforts by the Department. I’m also helping out with the American Woodcock Project now, which has been real interesting. It gets me back out in the field – I miss doing that in the last decade of my career here.”

“A friend of mine, Dave Stephen and I, own five acres on Little Back Creek and we built a cabin there – that’s probably been 20 years ago now. And I was with the high school in West Virginia. I worked there for a while as a biologist, and have a lifetime hunting license for West Virginia. So I was hoping to find a place where I could take advantage of hunting seasons in both states. So that’s why I picked that area. I enjoy Frederick County but also enjoy our time there in Highland. It’s a beautiful county, the people are very nice. It’s just a special place.”

In upcoming parts to this story, we’ll hear specifics on Mr. Norman’s game bird conservation efforts, which recently won him a prestigious award.

“The award was from the Southeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. That group includes 15 states from Virginia (and) West Virginia to the north, and out to Missouri in the west, and down to Texas and over to Florida. Those states are involved in the Southeast Association.”

“So that Association gives an annual award for the Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist of the Year. I’m very humbled to receive that award. Although it’s a Biologist of the Year award, I think it in my case, they were looking at all of my efforts, you know, through our turkey and grouse research. So I think it was combination of the two turkey studies and the big grouse work that all came together, and that was why I was recognized for that. So between those three field studies, I’ve been able to contribute a lot to the literature, in terms of peer reviewed articles that will be out there for future generations to hopefully turn to look for information about these things.”

“I appreciate the Department giving me the opportunity to work on these projects, and for my supervisor, Nelson Lafon, to take the time to actually submit my name for the award. It’s been a great career – it’s been my dream job from the get-go to be in this kind of a role. So I pinch myself from time to time with the work that I get to do, the people I get to meet, and influences I’m able to have on things, in Virginia and elsewhere.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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