In the 1920s and 1930s, wildlife biologists concentrated on raising game birds to help bolster low populations in the wild. The Belle Grove WMA was purchased for this purpose and was used exclusively for raising wild turkeys. Nearby, at the Billmeyer WMA, game birds were raised in hopes that surplus populations would spread to adjacent lands. Today this 355-acre tract is no longer a game bird farm. Forests and fields abound with wildlife, providing natural beauty and recreation for many outdoor interests.
Belle Grove is situated within the ridge and valley physiographic province, which is characterized by steep slopes. Elevations at Belle Grove range from 800 feet to a high of 1,050 feet along the ridge tops at Turkey Farm Road. This area is primarily comprised of mixed oak forest with a few patches of conifers, mostly Virginia pine. However about 55 acres are devoted to fields and small wildlife openings.
Turkeys are abundant here. Hens with their chicks, called "poults," can often be seen pecking through the fields for seeds and insects. In the thick understory of the forest, ruffed grouse find many a fallen log on which to drum out their territory and breeding condition in the spring. White-tailed deer are a common sight, leaping across the roads and fields. Forest management techniques, which benefit wildlife and produce valuable timber, are demonstrated.
Hunters can pursue white-tailed deer, grouse, turkeys, squirrels, woodcock and rabbits. There is a special area set aside for physically challenged hunters. Trapping is also available by permit. Several trails and old logging roads make for an exhilarating day of hiking, with great nature shots for those armed with cameras.
Belle Grove WMA is in eastern Allegany County. From I-68, Take the Orleans Road Exit and proceed south. Turn left on Turkey Farm Road (formerly Watson Road) and proceed to Belle Grove WMA. For additional information, contact the Billmeyer Wildlife Office at (301) 478-2525.
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This area is a part of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources public land system and is managed by the Wildlife and Heritage Service. The primary mission of the WMA system is to conserve and enhance wildlife populations and their respective habitats as well as to provide public recreational use of the State’s wildlife resources.
Eighty-five percent of the funding for Maryland's state wildlife programs comes from hunting license fees and a federal excise tax on sport hunting devices and ammunition. The federal aid funds are derived from the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (or Pittman-Robertson) Fund, which sportsmen and women have been contributing to since 1937. Each state receives a share of the funds, which is administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; these funds are used for wildlife conservation and hunter education programs, including the management of the WMA system.
Other sources of funds for land acquisition include Program Open Space Funding for Maryland's State and local parks and conservation areas, provided through The Department of Natural Resources' Program Open Space. Established in 1969, Program Open Space symbolizes Maryland's long-term commitment to conserving natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities.
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