DEC turkey study to begin in January

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will conduct a study of female wild turkeys statewide from January to March.

During that time, wildlife biologists will be banding hens and radio-collaring some of them in order to look at seasonal and annual hen survival rates.

The study is one of several the DEC is organizing to get a better picture of the wild turkey population statewide. The department

already looked at male survival rates from 2006 to 2009.

DEC is also working with Cornell University on a turkey hunter survey to determine hunter attitudes, opinions and motivations. Plus, it has partnered with the SUNY College of Environmental College of Environmental Science and Forestry, National Wildlife Turkey Federation and Michigan State University to look at turkey harvest potential for hunters. Issues that are being explored in this study include how weather and habitat

influence the animal’s population.

The goal of these studies is to use this information to update the turkey management plan that was completed in 2005.

One of the reasons for the studies is that turkey populations have declined in most areas of the state since 2001, with a sharper decline since 2007. Factors such as weather, habitat, predation and hen survival rates are believed to play roles in turkey populations.

Currently, turkey populations are around 200,000 birds, which is the lowest level since the mid-1990s.

However, that decline apparently hasn’t been felt in the Adirondacks.

“The rest of the state is decreasing, but the Adirondacks are stable,” said DEC wildlife biologist Melissa Neely, who is the local

project coordinator.

That doesn’t mean the population is thriving here. Actually the Adirondacks has an estimated wild turkey density of less than five per square mile in the Adirondacks, according to the DEC. The only other region with that few turkeys is Long Island. The western part of Long Island and parts of New York City are even lower, registering no turkeys.

The DEC’s hen turkey study early next year will be conducted on both private and public lands.

DEC is looking for landowners who are interested in allowing birds to be trapped on their land, as well as alerting DEC project coordinators when they see turkeys on their property on a regular basis.

Once turkeys are trapped and banded, they will immediately be released at the same location. Not all locations are suitable for deploying capture equipment, so landowners should contact their regional project coordinator to discuss the suitability of their property.

“Really, (we’re looking for) anyone who has turkeys in their yards right now, or they see them during the winter time,” Neely said.

“That’s what we’re hoping for, that people will let us know if they have birds.”

She said about 100 turkey hens will be banded in the DEC’s Northern Zone. About 70 of those will be in the St. Lawrence Valley and about 30 will take place in DEC’s Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack Park.

The DEC also worked with landowners from across the state to assess harvest and survival of male wild turkeys from 2006 through 2009.

Hundreds of landowners participated in that study or provided reports of winter turkey flocks.

Observations of turkey flocks during January through March can be reported to Neely or can be reported using the Winter Flock Survey form found on DEC’s website at

For more information on this project, contact wildlife biologist Melissa Neely at 518-623-1273 or email DEC at “Turkey Study” should be listed as the subject line in any emails.