This winter, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is kicking off the first comprehensive study of wild turkeys ever conducted in the state. The 3-year research project aims to answer many questions about factors potentially impacting turkey populations.
“Wild turkeys are an important game bird in Maryland,” Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto said. “The results of this study will help inform management decisions and ensure turkey populations remain healthy going into the future.”
Beginning in January 2023, wild turkeys will be captured and outfitted with leg bands and/or GPS radio transmitters. DNR staff will monitor the birds yearly and collect data on survival, reproduction, movements, and habitat use. The research team will investigate the effects of weather, habitat, predators, disease, and hunter harvest.
The department is asking for the public’s assistance by reporting via online form any turkey flocks they see during the winter.
Although turkey populations have increased in Maryland in the past 50 years due to an intensive restoration program to reintroduce the birds to their historical range, surveys suggest that their numbers have declined in some areas.
The annual DNR Summer Wild Turkey Observation Survey has documented a general decline in wild turkey reproduction over the past several decades, particularly in areas with previous turkey strongholds. Spring turkey harvests have dropped in some areas as well. Similar trends in other states throughout the U.S. have prompted numerous studies to investigate potential causes.
This research will be conducted as part of a multi-state collaborative effort with partners, including the Pennsylvania Game Commission, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Data will be collected at sites throughout the mid-Atlantic region to allow comparisons among areas with different landscape characteristics, providing an avenue to learn even more about the birds.
More information about the project can be found on the DNR website.