The Pennsylvania Game Commission is undertaking the largest statewide wild turkey project ever. It involves asking the general public to help find turkeys for an ongoing and new turkey project.
The agency is asking Pennsylvanians to report any turkey flocks they see between now and March 15. Their reports are being collected online at https://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/TurkeyBroodSurvey.
According to the PGC, reporters to the site will be asked to provide the date of the sighting, the location and the type of land (public, private or unknown) where birds are seen, among other things. PGC crews will subsequently assess sites for potential trapping of those turkeys to leg band them and released them on site. They will not be moved says the PGC.
In four Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) a sampling also be fitted with GPS transmitters, then released to be monitored over time.
New this year, the PGC will put GPS transmitters on 100 hens – 25 each in WMUs of 2D, 3D, 4D and 5C. The four study areas have different landscapes, turkey population densities and spring hunter and harvest densities, explains the PGC. These studies are being done in partnership with Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Futures Program.
Just like the last two winters, the PGC will put leg bands on male turkeys statewide. Hunters who harvest one of the banded turkeys, or people who find one dead, are asked to report the band number by either calling the PGC or emailing the email address on the band.
Said Mary Jo Casalena, PGC turkey biologist, “This gives us information on annual survival rates and annual spring harvest rates for our population model.”
The study will result in the PGC learning turkey population and movement and at how landscape and weather impact hen nest rates, nest success, predation, habitat and movement. The disease portion of the study, examines how disease prevalence varies based on landscape and impacts things like the survival and nesting rates of hens of different ages.
“Approximately 100 additional transmitters will be deployed each winter through 2025 so that in the end – with transmitters from hens that die being recovered and re-deployed – the PGC will monitor 400-plus transmitted hens,” explained Casalena. She added that finding birds to trap is the key to launching all of that work and that’s where the public comes in.
More than 3,800 people on average submit Wild Turkey Sighting Survey reports each summer. That information plays a key role in tracking annual turkey reproduction across the state. And it’s hoped the public will once again help in locating winter flocks statewide.
Like deer and Canada geese, wild turkeys have become adaptable to urban and suburban areas. In some areas, they’ve become a nuisance by chasing people and motorists. I recall a photo a friend took at Mack Trucks test center next to Queen City Airport where turkeys meandered around the office. They've also learned to feed at bird feeders. But in other areas, their populations have dwindled or have become non-existent. Hence this study will help determine their future in Pennsylvania.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.