The Game Commission again is seeking help from the public in surveying wild turkeys in August to get a handle on production statewide.
The third-annual Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Sighting Survey began on Aug. 1 and continues for the rest of the month.
Turkey sighting reports can be made at www.pgc.pa.gov by clicking on “August Turkey Sighting Survey” in the Quick Clicks section, or through the Game Commission mobile app available at the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. To report through the app, select “Turkey Sighting Survey.”
The public is encouraged to report any turkeys observed during August. Information submitted helps the agency analyze spring turkey production. Participants are requested to record the number of wild turkeys they see, along with the general location, date and contact information should agency biologists have any questions.
“The turkey survey enhances our agency’s internal survey, which serves as a long-term index of turkey reproduction,” said Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist. “By reporting all turkeys seen during each sighting, whether it’s gobblers, hens with broods or hens without broods, the data help us determine total productivity, and allow us to compare long-term reproductive success.”
Last year the survey yielded 20,428 turkeys reported, a decrease from 30,851 in 2016.
Biologist Kevin Wenner said two years worth of data isn’t enough to warrant concern, but there are possible factors that led to fewer sightings, particularly in the northeast.
“Rainfall amounts in May and June certainly negatively impacted poult survival and it plays a huge part in poult count observations later in summer,” Wenner said. “When birds are forced to re-nest due to nest failure caused by predation, poor weather or poor habitat conditions, that second nest attempt results in less production because of the resources that hen already expended during her first nest attempt.”
So far this year, 1,440 turkey sightings have been reported through the survey, including 818 poults as of Friday. The rainy spring and summer experienced throughout the region may lead to another year of low sightings.
“Early spring weather like we experienced doesn’t bode well for poult survival, and this year’s survey data will likely reflect the impacts that weather would have had on recruitment,” Wenner said.
Many factors including spring weather, habitat, previous winter-food abundance, predation and last fall’s harvest affect wild turkey productivity. The 2017 statewide turkey population was about 216,800, which is similar to the previous five-year average. Pennsylvania’s turkey population in the early 2000s reached its peak of about 280,000 birds because of agency restoration efforts through wild trap-and-transfer efforts, habitat improvement and fall-turkey-hunting-season restrictions.
It then declined sharply to levels below 200,000. Since 2011, it has been fluctuating between 204,000 and 234,000, depending on summer reproduction and fall harvest.
“Every turkey-sighting report made to the Game Commission during August helps to improve wild turkey conservation in the Keystone State,” Casalena emphasized.