EDGEFIELD, S.C. Recent floods in several central U.S. states have some hunters concerned about the impacts to wild turkey populations. However, wildlife biologists with the National Wild Turkey Federation say there isn't need for concern.
During the spring, wild turkey hens lay their eggs in nests on the ground and, when the entire clutch of eight to 12 eggs has been laid after a period of several days, sit atop the nest to incubate them.
"Hens haven't started nesting in affected states such as Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio yet," said Robert Abernethy, NWTF's director of agency programs. "Until the floodwaters recede, the birds will simply move to higher ground or get into trees and move limb-to-limb to get out of the flooded areas."
According to Abernethy, an overabundance of rain during the breeding and nesting season could cause problems by displacing wild turkeys from wet bottomlands. This is more a matter of inconvenience to hunters than to the wild turkey population in the area.
"If the floods were to occur later in the year, in April and into May when hens are laying and incubating clutches of eggs, some nests might be lost," said Abernethy. "But for now, there is no real concern that the floods pose any real danger to wild turkey populations."
The recent storms are not likely to cause any major problems in turkey populations. However, if poults were hatching, it could be a different story.
"Extended cold rains in the first few weeks of a poult's life can be devastating to the next year's crop of turkeys," said Dr. James Earl Kennamer, NWTF senior vice president for conservation programs. "In fact, rain after poults hatch is much worse than heavy rains during the incubation period."
Research conducted in New York showed that spring and summer weather plays a major role in turkey populations. Heavy rains during the nesting and poult seasons have more impact on turkey populations than harsh winters.
For more information about wild turkeys or weather impacts on turkey populations, contact (800) THE-NWTF.
About the NWTF: In 1973, when the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded, there were an estimated 1.3 million wild turkeys and 1.5 million turkey hunters. Thanks to the work of wildlife agencies and the NWTF's many volunteers and partners, today there are more than 7 million wild turkeys and nearly 3 million turkey hunters. Since 1985, the NWTF and its cooperators have spent more than $258 million upholding hunting traditions and conserving more than 13.1 million acres of wildlife habitat.
The NWTF is a nonprofit organization with more than 550,000 members in 50 states, Canada, Mexico and 14 other foreign countries. It supports scientific wildlife management on public, private and corporate lands as well as wild turkey hunting as a traditional North American sport.