The Pennsylvania Game Commission again is seeking input from the public in surveying wild turkeys this summer. The Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Sighting Survey opens July 1 and runs through Aug. 31.
Participation is important for turkey population management. Survey data allow the agency to determine total wild turkey productivity and compare long-term reproductive success within Pennsylvania and across states, as this is a standard methodology used across the country. Data also are used in the turkey population model to track population trends.
Turkey sightings can be reported through the Game Commission’s website https://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/TurkeyBroodSurvey. The mobile app is no longer available.
On the website, participants are requested to record the number of wild turkeys they see, along with the location, date and contact information if agency biologists have any questions. Viewers can also access results from previous years.
“The turkey survey enhances our agency’s internal survey, which serves as a long-term index of turkey reproduction and is used in our turkey population model,” said Game Commission Turkey Biologist Mary Jo Casalena. “Participants should report all turkeys seen, whether gobblers, hens with broods, or hens without broods.”
Many factors, including spring weather, habitat, previous winter-food abundance, predation, and last fall’s harvest affect wild-turkey productivity. Weather across Pennsylvania during late spring and summer 2021 were relatively warm and dry, but varied by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU), as well as the other factors that affect reproduction. For example, WMUs that experienced the 17-year Brood X cicada hatch tended to have excellent recruitment. These included parts of WMU 2C, and WMUs 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B and 5C. Cicadas are an excellent source of protein for turkeys and predators that normally would prey on turkey poults.
This above-average reproductive success last summer (3.1 poults per hen), coupled with more conservative fall 2021 turkey hunting seasons (shorter seasons in most WMUs and elimination of rifles) allowed for higher turkey survival into the 2022 spring breeding season. At the WMU level, reproductive success in 2021 improved in 15 of 23 WMUs compared to the previous three-year average. It was similar to the previous three-year average in two WMUs (2F and 4E) and declined to below average in only six WMUs (compared to declining in 11 WMUs in 2021). Units that declined were WMUs 3A, 3B, 3C, 4C and 5D, with a slight decline in 2D.
Reproductive success in surrounding states for 2021 was less than 3.0 poults per hen in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, but 3.0 or higher in New Jersey and New York.
“Thanks to the popularity of this survey in Pennsylvania, we have high confidence in our estimates,” Casalena emphasized. “Let’s maintain these results in 2022 and even increase participation.”