Jump Starting the Turkey Population
It may not be Thanksgiving, but 61 Merriam's turkeys found new homes across New Mexico in early February during a trap and transplant operation by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Twenty birds were released Feb. 4 on state land in the Luera Mountains south of Datil. Another 19 turkeys were released Feb. 5 on property owned by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation outside Magdelena and 22 in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque.
The 61 turkeys were trapped earlier in February on private land southwest of Chama. All releases were designed to augment existing populations that may need a little "jump-start." The turkeys were trapped using two different traps - one a walk-in trap and the other a drop net. Turkeys were baited into the traps with corn.
"These releases will improve the distribution of turkey in areas of former habitat and increase public viewing of wild turkeys, especially on the Sandia Mountains," said Larry Kamees, turkey biologist for the Department.
Merriam's is one of three species of turkeys in New Mexico. The other two species are the Rio Grande turkey, found primarily in the Pecos and Canadian River drainages; and the Mexican or Gould's turkey, a threatened species found in the southwest corner of the state. The Merriam's turkey reached its lowest numbers near the end of World War II but is now one of the success stories in wildlife management throughout its range in the Southwest, especially New Mexico.
The turkeys were trapped in a cooperative effort with the New Mexico chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which supplied volunteers, and personnel from the New Mexico State Land Office, U.S. Forest Service and Santa Ana Pueblo. All releases will be monitored for success and to determine future management plans.