Promoting Edge Habitat in Kentucky

A habitat project at Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is expected to result in better turkey reproduction, according to Jason Lupardus, NWTF Midwest conservation field supervisor.

“We are working with the USDA Forest Service, which contracts with farmers to leave field boarders,” Lupardus said. “Instead of going straight from crops to woods, a field edge between the two will be made up of native grasses, legumes and, often, ragweed. Ragweed seed is very high in protein, which is very good for growing [turkey] poults.”

Research also shows field edges provide excellent food and cover for myriad wildlife, including songbirds, game birds and deer, he said. “Turkeys often nest in these areas and have successful hatches. It’s a place for the poults to feed and hide. Between 7,000 to 10,000 acres of agricultural fields lie within Land Between the Lakes. Boarders around the edge of these fields should have a positive impact on turkey numbers this summer and fall, which could result in a higher harvest here in the fall.”

On a side note, Lupardus believes higher poult recruitment throughout the Midwest may occur due to this year’s 13-year cicada hatch. “Many people don’t realize how large of an impact cicada hatch can have on turkey numbers,” Lupardus explained. “A wide range of predators, including coyotes, birds of prey and raccoons will also eat the cicadas. Because they provide an easy meal, the predators fill their bellies. Therefore, more turkeys should survive the summer fall. Turkeys are not the only animals that eat the cicadas; everything does.”

Things may be looking up throughout the Midwest because of this cicada hatch and newly implemented practices. 

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Kentucky