Nebraska Turkey Population Growing

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A recent rural mail carrier survey revealed good news for Nebraska turkey hunters: evidence of an expanding population. The statewide population index for turkey increased 28 percent over last year, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The news comes at a time when hunters may take advantage, as the turkey hunting seasons continue through May 31.

The turkey population index in the Panhandle and central regions increased about 50 percent each and the northeast increased more than 30 percent compared to 2008. Only the Sandhills, southwest and southeast regions saw declines from last year. Overall, the statewide turkey population is at a record high with populations nearly 500 percent higher than in 2002.

Survey results show a pheasant population index increase of 32 percent over last year, indicating that the pheasant population likely has survived the winter well. The results should bode well for production, assuming that spring weather is favorable. Only the northeast region showed a decline over 2008.

Results were similar for northern bobwhite. Statewide, the population index was 20 percent higher over 2008, with the only decline in the northeast region.

The survey, run each year in early April, July, and October, collects wildlife observations from more than 500 rural mail carriers as they travel more than 200,000 miles of rural roads across the state. The percentages reported from the survey show changes in the numbers of various wildlife species observed from year to years, not necessarily changes in the actual population size.

The rural mail carrier survey is one of the oldest wildlife surveys conducted by the Commission, existing in some form or another since 1944.