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Turkey legs needed for disease surveillance project

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in conjunction with Iowa State University is monitoring the wild turkey population for the presence of Lymphoproliferative Disease (LPDV), and is asking for hunters who harvest a bird this spring to provide one lower leg to be tested.

“We want hunters to be aware of this disease. Last year, we conducted a small project and had several birds test positive so we know it’s here. What we don’t know is the range and extent and if it’s having an impact on our turkey population,” said Jim Coffey, forest wildlife research biologist for the Iowa DNR.

Iowa’s current turkey population trend is mostly flat or slightly declining across much of the state. It’s a trend occurring not only in Iowa, but in other Midwestern states as well as nationally and experts are looking at different possibilities as to why the decline is occurring.

Illinois is researching the impact black flies may have on young turkey survival. Missouri researchers are studying predator’s relationship with nesting turkeys.

“We’re looking at the possibility of LPDV impacting the Iowa population and need hunter assistance to provide samples from across the state to test,” Coffey said.

To provide a sample, after hunters’ tag and report their bird, they can cut the lower leg off at the joint where the feathers end and the leg becomes scaly, wrap the leg in a paper towel, put it in a zip top bag and place it in the freezer. They can then go online to https://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Turkey-Hunting and click on the Wild Turkey Sample Submission Form on the right side of the page. They will receive a postage paid envelope, instruction sheet with short questionnaire, and an additional zip top bag to use for submission. This will be an aggressive effort and all samples are welcomed, Coffey added.

Hunters are encouraged to send one whole lower leg, however if they would like to keep the spur it can be removed and the scaled portion above the spur can be submitted.

LPDV is a disease that does not impact people. Birds that test positive are still able to be consumed. Always use good meat handling and cooking protocols as with any other meat, poultry or wild game.