The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking public assistance in reporting observations of wild turkeys this summer.
The Commission is recording sightings by volunteers and staff through August 31st. Last year, more than 1,200 people helped with the survey, reporting observations of more than 35,000 turkeys. Upland Game Bird Biologist Chris Kreh say data collected from the annual summer survey helps officials manage the state’s turkey population.
“We look at what we call the productivity of the population, that is how many new turkeys or polts they’re putting out each year. It also gives us a really good way to gauge how much hunting pressure we’re putting on the population by looking at the ratio of male turkeys to female turkeys, because we’re only hunting the male turkeys.”
For the first time this season, participants can enter their observations on a smart phone or tablet. Krey sasys wild turkey populations have recovered in North Carolina since hitting an all-time low in the 1970s.
"There were only about 2,000 turkeys in the entire state. There were two really critical things that happened in the 1970's that really led to an astounding comeback. One is that we changed our hunting traditions in a major way. We serverely limited the hunting pressure on wild turkeys and switched from having liberal either sex fall hunting seasons to having springtime seasons that are really targeting gobblers only. The other key thing that helped us restore turkeys was our trap and transfer program. We did have a few turkeys in isolated places and we caught some of those birds and moved them to other areas where we had good habitat but no turkeys."
Today, there are around 265,000 wild turkeys across the entire state, with higher populations in the Coastal Plain. Wild turkeys are now one of the state’s most popular game animals.