Concord, NH – Winter is officially here and is off to a snowy start with many parts of the Granite State already receiving 2-4 feet of snow in December. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is asking the public to report wild turkeys sightings this winter by participating in the 2021 Winter Turkey Flock Survey at www.wildnh.com/surveys/turkey.html. The survey begins January 1 and runs through March 31. Information about the status of wintering wild turkeys is very important because severe weather and limited natural food supplies can present serious challenges for turkeys.
Results from the 2020 Winter Flock Survey reflected 2,309 reported flocks totaling 40,476 turkeys statewide. This was a significant increase over the 486 flocks totaling 9,833 turkeys reported in 2019, and also greater than the 2018 survey which yielded 1,372 flock observations totaling 20,224 turkeys.
“The increase in observations during the 2020 winter survey may be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said New Hampshire Fish and Game Turkey Biologist Allison Keating. “With many people spending more time at home last winter there was an increase in backyard bird feeding as well as bird watching, which may have contributed to the uptick in reports.”
The online survey asks participants to report the number of turkeys in the flock, where they were seen, the type of habitat the birds were observed in, and what the turkeys were feeding on, such as acorns, beechnuts, birdseed, or corn silage.
“Many people just like to see turkeys on the landscape because their presence is part of what makes New Hampshire unique,” said Keating. “But the observations people report through the online survey greatly add to the Department’s understanding of the abundance, distribution, and survival of turkeys through the winter months here in the Granite State.”
The Department continues to monitor the prevalence of two viruses that are present in the wild turkey population: Avian Pox and Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus (LPDV). The public is asked to keep an eye out this winter for lesions or wart-like protuberances on the head or neck areas of turkeys they see and report these observations through the online survey.
To learn more about these viruses, visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/turkeys/turkey-virus.html.
Wild turkeys disappeared from New Hampshire’s landscape for more than a century because of unregulated hunting and habitat loss from extensive land clearing in the 1800s. Their recovery in the state began during the winter of 1975 when 25 turkeys were trapped in New York and transferred to Walpole, NH. As that initial population grew, turkeys were trapped and transferred to different locations around the state up until 1995. Now, New Hampshire has a robust turkey population estimated at around 45,000 birds statewide. Wild turkey management and research is made possible by the federal Wildlife Restoration Program which is funded by an excise tax on the sale of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment.