Turkeys to be Trapped and Tracked

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Despite below zero temperatures, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) trappers are staying hot on the trail of the wild turkey in southeastern Minnesota.

The goal, according to DNR Winona Area Wildlife Manager Gary Nelson, is to initially trap about 70 turkeys this winter to be transplanted in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Morrison County, and the Snake River State Forest. More birds may be trapped and transplanted elsewhere. As of Jan. 29, 26 hens had been trapped and released. All trapped birds will be equipped with radio transmitters so that they can be monitored for movement and mortality by a graduate student who is working with the DNR and St. Cloud State University.

"This is the third year of a study that is intended to determine the effects of food plots on wild turkey survival north of their ancestral range in Minnesota," Nelson explained.

Just how far north the ancestral range of wild turkeys in Minnesota once extended is open to debate, Nelson acknowledged, "but there is some indication they might have been present as far north as the Twin Cities area."

When the wild turkey reintroduction program began in Minnesota in the 1960s, it was thought wild turkeys would be unable to survive anywhere other than in southeastern Minnesota. The wisdom of the day said the wild turkey needed large blocks of contiguous hardwoods and relatively mild winter conditions in order to thrive.

"That has since been disproved as wild turkeys are now surviving quite nicely in some 60 counties of Minnesota, as far north as Mahnomen County," Nelson said.

For the current study, once 70 birds are trapped and released in the study areas, efforts will be made to capture birds for release in areas of Kandiyohi, Norman, Todd, Swift, Big Stone, Otter Tail and Watonwan counties. These birds will not be part of the research project.

The Minnesota Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the DNR Section of Wildlife are providing funding for the trapping program.