The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is asking the public to report wild turkey sightings by participating in the 2021 Winter Herd Survey, which runs through March 31st.
The 2020 survey results reflect 2,309 reported herds out of a total of 40,476 turkeys across the state. According to fish and game officials, this was a significant increase compared to the 486 herds with a total of 9,833 turkeys registered in 2019 and also higher than the 2018 survey, in which 1,372 herd observations were carried out with a total of 20,224 turkeys.
“The increase in observations during the 2020 Winter Survey can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Allison Keating, fish and game biologist in Turkey, in a press release. “With many people spending more time at home last winter, there has been an increase in backyard bird feeding and bird watching, which may have contributed to an increase in reports.”
In the online survey (www.wildnh.com/surveys/turkey.html) participants are asked the number of turkeys in the flock, the location where they have been seen, the type of habitat where the birds have been observed and indicate the diet of the turkeys such as acorns, beechnuts, birdseed or corn silage.
“A lot of people just love to see turkeys in the countryside because their presence is part of what makes New Hampshire unique,” said Keating. “But the observations people report on the online survey go a long way in helping the ministry understand the incidence, distribution and survival of turkeys during the winter months here in the Granite State.”
According to the press release, wild turkeys disappeared from the New Hampshire countryside for more than a century because they hunted unregulated and lost their habitat to extensive clearing in the 19th century.
Her recovery in the state began in the winter of 1975 when 25 turkeys were caught in New York and transferred to Walpole, NH. As this population grew, turkeys were captured and moved to various locations in the state until 1995.
In New Hampshire, there are an estimated 45,000 birds across the state, according to Fish and Game officials.
The department continues to monitor the prevalence of two viruses in the wild turkey population: Avian Pox and Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus. The public is asked to keep an eye out for lesions or wart-like protuberances on the head or neck of turkeys this winter and to report these observations through the online survey.
The management and research of wild turkeys is made possible through the Federal Wildlife Restoration Program, which is funded by an excise tax on the sale of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment.