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DEC Seeking Landowners to Assist With Wild Turkey Research

Over the last 20 years, however, wild turkey numbers have skyrocketed throughout North America.
During pre-colonial times, wild
turkeys were abundant, but European settlers on the North American continent nearly destroyed all habitat for wild turkeys by harvesting timber for homes, farm and pasture. Settlers also hunted wild  turkeys year round for food. By the 1950s, wild turkeys were eliminated from 18 states considered part of the birds' historic range and the nationwide population was less  than 500,000 birds.
Currently, wild turkey numbers are at their highest levels with nearly 5.5 million birds.
In 1958, the nationwide population of wild turkeys was less than 500,000 birds with an annual harvest of about 45,000 birds. In 1999, the population had increased to nearly 5.5 million birds with an
estimated harvest of 750,000.

Over the past 10 years, wild turkey populations have declined in many parts of New York State.

Beginning in January, DEC will embark on a statewide effort to capture wild turkey hens and fit them with leg bands to obtain accurate data on survival and harvest. A small number of these birds will also be tagged with satellite radio-transmitters.

All of the work will be done by DEC personnel on both public and private lands from January through March.

The DEC is looking for landowners in Western New York interested in helping with the study and who would allow birds to be trapped on their land, as well as alerting project coordinators when they see turkeys on their property on a regular basis.

Once turkeys are trapped and banded, they will be released at the same location.

In the 1960s the State Conservation Department, one of the forerunners of the DEC, was successful in their efforts to aid the wild turkey recover habitat in New York. During the 1600s, wild turkeys occupied all of what is now New York State south of the Adirondacks. When European settlers came here they cut the forests for timber and turned the land into small farms. The early settlers and farmers killed wild turkeys for food all year round, and around the mid 1840s, within about 200 years from Europeans setting foot on the land, the last of the original wild turkeys disappeared from New York altogether.

In the early 1900s farming began to decline. Old farm fields gradually reverted to brush land and grew into woodland. Around 1948, wild turkeys from a small remnant population in northern Pennsylvania crossed the border into western New York. These were the first birds in the state after an absence of 100 years.

In 1959, about 2,000 wild turkeys live in New York and a program was begun by the State Conservation Dept. to trap live wild turkeys in Allegany State Park and move them to other parts of the state, usually in groups of five males and 8 females, to re-establish them in the wild.

Approximately 1,400 birds were moved and these successfully re-established wild populations statewide. There were 65,000 wild turkeys in 1990. Today, numbers have increased to an estimated 250,000 birds.

While the restoration of the wild turkey is a tremendous achievement and one of the greatest conservation stories of our time, in New York, they are on the decline again.

For more information on the DEC project, contact the DEC by e-mail atfwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us. “Turkey Study” should be listed as the subject line in any e-mails.

DEC Website Offers Safety Tips for Turkey Hunters Most turkey hunting injuries happen when one hunter stalks another. So don't be a turkey. Follow these rules: (Our comments in parenthesis)
  • Never wear turkey colors - red, white or blue. (And no feathers, either)
  • Assume anything that sounds like a turkey is another turkey hunter. (Do not make gobbling sounds)
  • Call with a large tree at your back. (This way you will get shot from the front which is less painful)
  • If you see another hunter....DON'T MOVE. (Just shoot to kill before he kills you)
  • Never wave, whistle or make any turkey call or animal sound. (This includes hiss, grunt, quack, scnor, or chirp)
  • Speak up in a loud, clear voice to identify yourself. (The best way is to bray or bleat)
  • Wrap an orange vest around a tree near your calling location to let other hunters know you are there. (This way you will be an easier target)



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Dec 03, 2013