Game & Fish and Conservation Group Release Gould's Turkeys

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Thirty-eight wild Gould's turkeys are roaming around the Santa Rita Mountains and 15 wild Gould's turkeys were added to the population in the Pinaleno Mountains, thanks to a recent release by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The birds were released on April 12 as part of the "Go for the Gould's" program aimed at bringing back the species in Arizona.

Gould's turkeys once thrived in the mountains of Arizona, but populations declined dramatically around 1900 without present-day restrictions on harvest and land management. By 1920, the Gould's wild turkey had all but disappeared from Arizona's landscape.

In early March, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Association of Wildlife Managers in Mexico, and the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources in Mexico were involved in trapping the birds near Zacatecas, Mexico, and transferring them to a quarantine facility in Arizona. Some of the birds were fitted with radio transmitters to allow biologists to follow their survival, movements and reproduction. The April release followed.

"Our goal is to eventually repopulate Gould's turkeys into all suitable habitat, particularly the sky islands of southern Arizona," says Game and Fish big game supervisor Brian Wakeling, who has been working on the reintroduction program for more than a decade. "Thanks to this cooperative effort, we're making great headway."

Since 2003, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Wild Turkey Federation have transferred 230 Gould's turkeys from Mexico to southern Arizona. Game and Fish biologists closely monitor the progress of Gould's turkeys in Arizona, and current estimates show they're expanding their population and range with flocks in the Chiricahua, Catalina, Huachuca and Pinaleno mountains.