New York DEC Begins Final Year of Turkey Study

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced that DEC is preparing for the final field season of a large-scale wild turkey research project and is implementing a statewide winter flock survey.

The first project is a turkey banding program, being done in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, researchers from Pennsylvania State University, and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). The second project is a statewide winter flock survey. These studies, which are in their fourth and final year as planned, will provide information that DEC biologists need to help guide future management efforts for this popular game bird.

The banding program will begin in January, when DEC staff and cooperators from NWTF will launch a statewide effort to capture wild turkeys and fit them with metal leg bands bearing a toll-free phone number for reporting. The objective of the banding study is to examine hunter harvest rates, turkey survival rates, and harvest reporting rates across the state. Banding will be done on public and private lands north of New York City, from January through March.

Last year's banding effort was highly successful, as DEC staff and volunteers banded a total of 352 gobblers (males) and 303 hens (females), increasing the three-year total to 1,031 gobblers and 1,056 hens in 51 counties and 148 towns. Through the first three field seasons Pennsylvania Game Commission and Ohio Department of Natural Resources have banded 904 and 618 gobblers, respectively.

One-hundred forty-nine of the banded gobblers were reported shot by hunters during New York's spring 2008 hunting season, which includes 71 birds banded in winter 2008, 64 banded in winter 2007, and 14 from winter 2006. Another 10 were harvested by hunters during the fall 2008 season. Most birds were killed within five miles of where they were banded, but some birds banded during the study have moved at least 20 miles from where they were banded.

During the past three winters, DEC conducted a pilot study to assess the feasibility of a winter flock survey as part of a long-term population monitoring program. More than 1,500 observations were received from every county in the state. Based on this data, a Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey will be implemented to help monitor trends in the turkey population over time, and to assess the condition of the flock prior to the spring breeding season. Landowners, hunters, bird watchers or others interested in participating, can report their observations of turkey flocks (even a few birds) from January through March to the project coordinator for a particular DEC region (see attached list for regional contacts), or they can download or print a winter flock survey form from the DEC website.

In addition, DEC is looking for landowners who will allow birds to be trapped, banded, and released on their land. Turkeys will be trapped and banded and will immediately be released at the same location. No relocation of the birds will occur.

The Department sincerely thanks all of the cooperating landowners who actively participated in the turkey banding project or provided reports of wild turkey flocks last winter.

For more information on either project, contact the project coordinator for your region or contact DEC by e-mail at Please write "Turkey Study" in the subject line.