Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency wants your help observing wild turkeys in Tennessee this summer
Wild turkeys faced a decline in population due to habitat loss and hunting, which began in the mid-19th century and the population hit a low in the 1930s and 1940s, disappearing from the states of New York and Vermont entirely. Thanks, in part, to conservation efforts including regulated hunting, they’ve not only thrived but live beyond their historical range.
TWRA’s done surveys of turkeys in the past, but this is just the second year the public’s been involved.
The survey began June 1, but you can still join. It runs through Aug 31.
Last year, the public submitted observations of 35,924 turkeys with data from all 95 of the state’s counties, per a TWRA news release. More than 4,200 public observations met the criteria for inclusion in the analysis. The TWRA’s staff and partners count was 7,341 turkeys from 1,284 observations.
“If we can keep that level of response up, year after year, even grow it a bit that’d be wonderful,” Roger Shields, TWRA Wild Turkey Program Coordinator, told Hellbender Press. He explained TWRA couldn’t observe every area of the state on its own, which is why it’s involving the public.
“We added the public as a way of getting it a little bit better and filling in the gaps,” he said.
TWRA recommends before going out you learn how to spot the difference between gobblers (males) and hens (females) and the different ages of poults. There’s no official list of places to look, but rather people should record each instance they see a turkey or group of turkeys in Tennessee. The form will ask for the county in which the participant sees them. TWRA recommends bringing binoculars to get better details of the birds’ ages and sexes.
The agency is looking at observations of wild turkeys to figure factors influencing trends in their population. These include nesting success, brood survival as well as annual number of poults born each year.
In some parts of the state, Shields said, numbers have dropped due to loss of habitat. He said the overall population reached a peak in 2009 through 2010 and might not return.
“We kind of overshot what the habitat, what the landscape could support,” he said regarding the population. “Turkeys in general are a cyclical species, they go up and down,” Shields said, adding that they can frequently build their numbers back after periods of decline.
“I think there’s a bright future ahead for turkeys in Tennessee,” he said.