Flooding shouldn’t affect turkey flock

Athens, Ohio – Much of Ohio experienced higher-than-normal
snowfalls this winter followed by a deluge of early spring
floods.

High water levels have made for tough fishing conditions in much
of the state, but turkey hunting should be a much different story.
Wildlife biologists with both the DNR Division of Wildlife and the
National Wild Turkey Federation said this winter’s harsh weather
likely had no effect on Ohio’s flock.

“The most concern I typically hear is from snowbelt counties of
the northeast,” said Mike Reynolds, a forest game biologist with
the Division of Wildlife in Athens.

The snow in that part of the state is naturally influenced by
Lake Erie and thus is more wet than powdery. The hard crust that
results from a wet snowfall, Reynolds explained, does not inhibit
turkey movement to the point that birds cannot find food sources
even in the snowiest regions of Ohio.

Spring wild turkey hunting opened in all 88 Ohio counties on
April 21 and runs through May 18. Hunters harvested 17,005 wild
turkeys during last year’s spring season, and the expectation is
for around that number this year. The current wild turkey
population is about 185,000.

During the spring, wild turkey hens lay their eggs in nests on
the ground and, when the entire clutch of eight to 12 eggs has been
laid after a period of several days, sit atop the nest to incubate
them.

“Hens haven’t started nesting in (flood) affected states such as
Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio yet,”
said Robert Abernethy, NWTF’s director of agency programs. “Until
the floodwaters recede, the birds will simply move to higher ground
Š to get out of the flooded areas.”

According to Abernethy, an overabundance of rain during the
breeding and nesting season could cause problems by displacing wild
turkeys from wet bottomlands.  

“If the floods were to occur later in the year, in April and
into May when hens are laying and incubating clutches of eggs, some
nests might be lost,” Abernethy said. “But for now, there is no
real concern that the floods pose any real danger to wild turkey
populations.”

In other words, the recent storms are not likely to cause any
major problems in turkey populations. However, if poults were
hatching, it could be a different story.

“Extended cold rains in the first few weeks of a poult’s life
can be devastating to the next year’s crop of turkeys,” said James
Earl Kennamer, NWTF senior vice president for conservation
programs.

Since turkeys are physically larger birds than the much more
fragile quail, for example, turkeys can retain more heat. A turkey
can also go without food for up to two weeks before starvation
occurs, according to the Division of Wildlife’s Reynolds, and they
can recover from up to 30-percent loss of their body weight.

Turkeys are hardy birds that range well into the northeastern
U.S. and Canada, despite stretches of sustained cold temperatures
in many areas.

“If they can deal with winter conditions in Maine, and they do,
Ohio should be a walk in the park,” Reynolds said.

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