Like many folks who like to hunt, I keep a close eye out for wildlife when I’m on the road — especially deer and turkeys.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were headed into town when we suddenly had to slow down and let two big hens and fourteen poults cross the road. They made it safely into the high weeds in the field, but the next morning when I came by the same spot, two poults were laying dead on the side of the road — no doubt hit by a passing car. That’s the most turkeys I’ve seen together at one time this spring and summer, but I have had sightings of smaller numbers in various locations.
I mention these turkey sightings because I recently became aware of a study the Pennsylvania Game Commission is doing regarding our wild turkeys. The Game Commission is asking for the public’s help to find turkeys in various locations for a new turkey research project. The agency is asking willing participants to report the location and other information of turkeys that are seen up to the end of August. Game Commission’s crews will assess potential sites for the possibility of trapping. Now don’t get into a panic; the trapped birds will not be moved but will be tagged or fitted with GPS transmitters and then released back to the same location. Eventually, the Game Commission hopes to have 400 hens tagged with transmitters. Hunters who harvest or find a dead turkey with the tags are asked to report the band number to the Game Commission.
The purpose of the study is to look at hen populations and movement dynamics as well as disease. They want to look closer at how landscape and weather impact hen nest rates, nest success, poult survival, predation, habitat use, and movement. I’m all for improving our turkey population, so before I sat down to write this piece, I went to the Game Commission site to report what I mentioned at the beginning of this story. It only takes a couple of minutes to fill out and send. Some of the questions to look for are your name, address, and phone number. Also, you will be asked to file a separate report for each sighting and to report the number of males, females, and poults. Try not to report the same flock over and over. Also, if you spot birds with poults and then see the same group again later with fewer poults, you are asked to report it again as a repeat observation. Make sure you know the County, Township, and WMU.
To file a sighting report, go to https://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/TurkeyBroodSurvey. This is the largest turkey population project ever conducted in Pennsylvania with the hope of answering many questions regarding current hen population dynamics, according to Mary Jo Casalena, the Game Commission’s turkey biologist.
On average, more than 3,800 people submit Wild Turkey Sighting Survey reports each summer. If you want to have a part in helping our wild turkey population keep your eyes open and let the Game Commission know what you are seeing.