When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were approximately 1.5 million wild turkeys in North America. After 40 years of effort, that number has reached a historic high of about 6.7 million turkeys.
But, today turkey numbers are down and are estimated at between 6 and 6.2 million birds. Why has the overall turkey count dropped 15 percent? These recent declines may not be long-term, but they do warrant close monitoring.
Here are four facts that researchers find may be the cause for decline:
- Production, not predation, drives turkey populations
- With high population densities, a significant number of hens won’t access quality nesting habitat and may not successful hatch or raise a brood
- Carrying capacity becomes an issue, productivity is declining because hens are nesting in suboptimal habitat
- Vegetation measurements contribute to the success or failure of nesting sites… little vegetation means little chance at poult survival
It seems that in some areas birds have reached carrying capacity and have declined as the capacity of the habitat to support a certain number of birds has declined. If the habitat conditions decline across multiple counties and states, then birds have no choice but to decline with it.