Turkey study enters fourth year

Albany — DEC’s fourth and final year of a study into wild turkey survival rates comes on the heels of tightened regulations last fall designed to assist in a rebound of turkey numbers.

The state is once again looking for landowners willing to open their properties to the study effort, which involves trapping, tagging and then immediately releasing the birds back into the wild at the same location.

“DEC and its partners have worked hard over the past three years to better understand why wild turkey populations have changed dramatically in New York,” Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “This project will provide valuable information on turkey survival and harvest and will help evaluate the changes to fall hunting seasons implemented in 2015.”

Last fall, DEC shortened the turkey hunting season and set a one-bird limit; some parts of the state had a two-bird bag limit prior to the tightened regulations.

DEC teams this month will resume a statewide effort – concentrated in DEC regions 3 through 9 – in which hen turkeys will be captured and fitted with legbands. Some of the birds will also be outfitted with satellite radio-transmitters. All of the work will be done by DEC personnel on both public and private lands from January through March when turkeys are flocked together and more easily baited for capture with the cannon-fired nets.

New York’s turkey numbers have plummeted in recent years, primarily as a result of poor nesting a brood rearing weather in the spring and early summer.

New York’s spring gobbler kill plummeted since the 2007 record of 35,626. The 2010 harvest dipped to 25,807, and in 2011 just 18,738 birds were taken in the spring. After a brief rally – 19,038 in 2012 and 21,515 in 2013 – the spring harvest bottomed out at 15,904 in 2014. DEC officials said the 2015 spring gobbler kill was about 17,000, an improvement but still less than half of that less than a decade ago.

The final year of the study will help guide management efforts and provide wildlife managers with current estimates of harvest and survival rates for hen turkeys.

DEC is looking for landowners in DEC Regions 3 through 9 – virtually the entire state, with the exception of New York City and Long Island – interested in allowing 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 immediately be released at the same location,” DEC officials said in a news release. 

Not all locations are suitable for deploying capture equipment, so landowners should contact their regional project coordinator to discuss the suitability of their property. Observations of turkey flocks during January through March can be reported to the project coordinator for that region or can be reported using the Winter Flock Survey form found on DEC’s website.

For more information on this project, contact the regional project coordinator below or DEC by e-mail at wildlife@dec.ny.gov. “Turkey Study” should be listed as the subject line in any e-mails.

Landowners interested in participating should contact the project coordinator for their region:

• Region 3 – (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties), Jonathan Russell, (845) 256‑3087.

• Region 4 (Albany, Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Schoharie counties), Karl Parker, (518) 357‑2154.

• Region 5 (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties), Melissa Neely, (518) 623‑1273.

•Region 6 (Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, and St. Lawrence counties), Jeff Eller, (315) 785‑2262.

• Region 7 (Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego, Tioga, and Tompkins counties), Lance Clark, (607) 753‑3095.

• Region 8 (Chemung, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, and Yates counties), Scott Smith, (607) 776‑2165  (ext. 16).

•Region 9 (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, and Wyoming counties), Emilio Rende, (716) 372‑0645.

• Central Office (Albany), Michael Schiavone, (518) 402‑8886.

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