Funding for wild turkey habitat conservation isn’t as forthcoming as it once was. With the boom in turkey population from the 1980s to early 2000s, the wild turkey was assumed to be fully restored and was removed from priority lists by state and federal wildlife agencies. With this deprioritization came fewer dollars by way of grants and allocated funds to help manage them.
The wild turkey is considered an indicator species. This means that when wild turkeys thrive, it indicates a healthy forest environment interspersed with the right amount of habitat variation to support the population throughout the year. The wild turkey co-exists with a host of other woodland species that also thrive in similar habitat types, so when you see bountiful wild turkey populations, you often also see bountiful populations of deer, elk, grouse, quail, songbirds, pollinators and a variety of other animals.
Some of these animals that co-inhabit the wild turkey’s realm are species of specific concern. The most notable are golden-winged warblers, Karner blue butterflies, red cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, Gunnison sage grouse to name but a few. They are protected under the Endangered Species Act and with that also comes prioritized funding for the management of the species and its habitats.
With less funding available specifically for wild turkeys, leveraging the funds for other animals with the money raised by our volunteers, donors and partners is a way for the NWTF to accomplish on-the-ground habitat conservation and enhancement for its target species, the wild turkey, while also bolstering habitats that support these other, more fragile animals at a much greater scale.
NWTF biologists review these species in their states, how they tie into the woodland ecosystem and the habitats needed for their success. When they find a direct match to the types of work we can and currently do for wild turkeys, they can apply for the grants and funding available.
“Habitat work done to benefit golden-winged warblers in North Carolina, for instance, has a peripheral effect of benefitting other woodland species, including the wild turkey,” said Mark Hatfield, NWTF national director of conservation services. “This is why you may see the NWTF logo on a sign with other partners that showcases work for threatened and endangered species on a piece of public ground you hunt or recreate on. The NWTF has accomplished work there for the vulnerable species with the intent of also benefitting all of these other species that co-exist in this same habitat.”
“It’s a win-win,” explained Hatfield. “For example, when we improve longleaf pine habitat with the desired effect to help gopher tortoises in the Southeast, we simultaneously accomplish our mission of conserving wild turkeys, which in turn provides great places for our members to hunt and enjoy the outdoors.”