Wild turkey populations decline across region | New

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Is it possible that the future of turkey hunting here in Pennsylvania is in jeopardy? Okay, let’s be honest. That last sentence was just to get your attention. But the truth is that in some places the numbers of wild turkeys appear to be dropping, possibly drastically dropping. With that in mind, the PA Game Commission made a difficult decision. The move was to make center and rimfire rifles and handguns illegal for the fall turkey season 2021.

Why the change? It’s simple. Either reduce the number of birds harvested in this way, or shorten the season. Either way, I hope the people can bounce back, and it’s a goal that I think all hunters should applaud. There is, of course, another restriction that could be implemented that would help, but would be unpopular with many. This restriction would be to make the fall season similar to spring hunting and only allow hunting of bearded birds. With the vast majority of bearded birds being males (yes, there is the occasional bearded hen), targeting only these birds would in theory save more hens, thus increasing the number of breeders for the following spring.

While any new restrictions are doomed to step on someone’s feet, let’s remember that just a few generations ago, wild turkeys were rare in Pennsylvania. Thanks to the concern of Pennsylvania hunters, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, the wild turkey has received the help needed to effect an incredible recovery. In a short time, birds were again sighted not only in the great woods region of Pennsylvania, but also in agricultural areas. Through a combination of trap and transfer projects as well as habitat enhancement, this once rarely seen bird had become common. Doesn’t it make sense that we all do our part to make it so?

What caused the sudden reduction in the number of turkeys? Illness is a possibility. Take the grouse for example. Grouse populations have declined dramatically and West Nile virus has been shown to be transmitted to birds by mosquitoes. Some believe that this or something similar could happen to the wild turkey.

Another indisputable factor is that in many areas, including right here in the Susquehanna Valley, the past two or three springs have been both cold and wet, which has had a huge impact on the success of the outbreak. as well as on the survival of young chicks. Bad weather and numerous bird predators left fewer chicks surviving to adulthood.

Which predators are capable of killing a young turkey? Numerous. A few that come to mind are both red and gray foxes, coyotes, hawks, eagles, feral cats, stray dogs, bobcats, and fishermen. Believe me, the list is actually much longer, but you can’t blame it all on the predators. After all, the predator / prey combination is a natural part of life. One must die for another to survive. It is a law of nature that man can influence, but not change.

Besides the hunter and nature lover, who would suffer if we lost our population of wild turkeys? The economy. Millions of dollars are spent each year on turkey hunting equipment. Personally, I know a number of people in the industry whose livelihood depends on a keen interest in turkey hunting.

Maybe Benjamin Franklin was right. A bird as important as the wild turkey could have been a good symbol for our nation. All of that aside, please do your part to help see that this popular bird remains a part of Pennsylvania’s wild places.


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