New York Wild Turkey Studies Set to Begin

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan today announced that DEC is preparing for the second field season of two large-scale wild turkey research projects.

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 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 in DEC Regions 3 through 9, from January through March.

Last year's banding effort was highly successful, as staff banded a total of 296 gobblers (males) and 350 hens (females). Seventy-nine (27%) of the banded gobblers were reported shot by hunters during the spring 2006 hunting season, and another 6 (2%) were reported shot during the fall 2006 season. Most birds were harvested within five miles of where they were banded, but 3 birds had moved at least 20 miles from where they were banded.

DEC will also continue collecting data on winter turkey flocks across the state to assess feasibility of a long-term population monitoring program. DEC hopes to identify several locations in every county of New York where turkeys can be counted each winter to monitor population changes. Last winter, observers documented a total of 570 flocks throughout New York State, including several recently established flocks on Long Island.

In preparation for both studies, DEC is asking landowners, hunters, bird watchers or others to report winter turkey flock locations anywhere in New York State. Observations of turkey flocks (even a few birds) during mid-December through March can be reported to the project coordinator for a particular DEC region (see attached list for regional contacts).

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, please feel free to contact the project coordinator for your region or contact DEC by e-mail at [email protected]. Please write "Turkey Study" in the subject line.