Tom Cooley has worked hard at restoring the wild turkey to the state of Michigan.
Because of his efforts, the Michigan State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation awarded Cooley its Outstanding Conservationist of the Year for 2016.
"Tom is a key employee who is very effective at his job," says Russ Mason, chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Division. "We rely heavily on his knowledge and his insights about wildlife disease and parasitology."
Cooley, a 40-year veteran with the DNR, works for the Wildlife Division as a wildlife pathologist at the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory.
The laboratory monitors the health and well-being of the state's wildlife.
Cooley also displayed consistent efforts to monitor wild turkeys for diseases. That was another reason he was honored. The diseases could affect the wild turkey population.
"When we were actively involved in our wild turkey restoration efforts, all wild birds that came from out of state or that we provided to other states and Canada had to be tested for disease," says Al Stewart, upland game bird specialist for the DNR.
"Tom was part of the team that helped test each bird. Many times, wild-captured birds would arrive at the lab in the evening, get tested during the night and be prepared for release the following morning at a new site. Tom was one of the first people to assist and one of the last biologists to leave during these all-night procedures."
Art Pelon, president of the Michigan State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, says award winners are selected by members of the Federation. Peers recommend honorees for the award.
"We feel privileged to be able to partner with Michigan's internationally recognized biologists and wildlife management leaders on conservation programs in this state," says Pelon.
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