Utah is at the forefront of turkey releases
In 1984 when the National Wild Turkey Federation started its first chapter in Salt Lake City, wild turkeys were almost nonexistent in Utah. The arid landscape offered plenty of food, cover and brood habitat, but in an area as dry as Utah; water is life.
To address the water issue and lack of wild turkeys in Utah, the NWTF and its cooperators have spent over $1 million on projects to restore wild turkeys, and improve habitat for wildlife.
The NWTF has released, with the Utah Division of Wildlife and other partners, over 5,600 wild turkeys in Utah. Twenty-five hundred were donated by South Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma through partnerships initiated by the NWTF.
"We have released more turkeys in Utah than any other state except Texas," said NWTF Director of Agency Programs Robert Abernethy.
Water is an important factor in the improvement of wildlife habitat in the semi-arid regions of the west. The NWTF's regional habitat program Guzzlers for Gobblers is their way to supply water to a variety of wildlife species in Utah.
The Guzzlers for Gobblers program places wildlife accessible water tanks, called guzzlers, throughout the western states. In the past four years the NWTF National Projects fund has paid for 16 Guzzlers for Gobblers water projects in Utah, improving 80,000 acres of land for wild turkeys and other species of wildlife.
"Utah is a critical state for wild turkey habitat in the west," said NWTF CEO Rob Keck. "We are committed to improving wild turkey habitat and populations in Utah and throughout the western United States."
The most recent NWTF conservation project in Utah is a study on the survival of the Rio Grande wild turkey in the dry Pinyon and Juniper habitat of Utah. The three-year study will determine how necessary guzzlers are for the survival of wild turkeys in Utah.
"We know that adult turkeys can survive in Utah as long as they have water sources," said Danny Raymer, the Brigham Young University researcher heading the project. "The question is about the poults. Can we get them to survive and populate by using artificial water sources?"
The NWTF Utah State Chapter has spent $118,000 on projects in Utah through its Wild Turkey Super Fund in the first half of 2003.
After moving turkeys in and around the state, the biggest Super fund expenditure in Utah has been on children. The NWTF Utah State Chapter has spent close to $44,000 since 1985 on JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge Ethics and Sportsmanship) events, 4-H shooting events, education boxes for schools, and scholarships for high school seniors interested in conservation and hunting.
JAKES is the NWTF's outreach program for 17-year-olds and younger designed to teach conservation, archery, gun safety and other outdoor skills.
For more information on the NWTF's conservation and outreach efforts in the state of Utah, contact Robert Abernethy at 1-800-the-NWTF, or visit the NWTF website at www.nwtf.org.