Projects Boost Turkey Production in the West

Conservation projects supported by the NWTF are improving habitat in the American West, helping to provide food and cover needed for wild turkey survival when conditions turn inhospitable.

Water impacts habitat greatly. Invasive eastern red cedar loves water, almost to the detriment of native species. Western Oklahoma’s Black Kettle National Grassland Wildlife Management Area has been undergoing habitat enhancement since 2012. This year, USDA Forest Service, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Oklahoma NWTF Super Fund partnership dollars added $200,000 to a project that includes mechanical grinding of the cedar. The funding boost benefits an additional 450 acres.

“Projects like this wouldn’t exist without the initial Oklahoma NWTF Super Fund investment enabled by the hard work of our dedicated volunteers,” said Gene Miller, NWTF regional biologist for Oklahoma and Texas. Native plant response is immediate and continues to improve over time as prescribed rest and cattle grazing are introduced. “The wild turkey response also is often immediate, as these areas are opened from the jaws of invasive eastern red cedar.”

Located within a designated National Scenic Area, the Columbia River Gorge covers nearly 300,000 acres in southern Washington and northern Oregon. Its Oregon white oak woodland is home to some of the most productive wild turkey habitat in the Pacific Northwest. White oak acrons are integral to a wild turkey’s diet here, especially given the area’s sometimes severe winds, rain and temperatures.

The NWTF continues to fund controlled burns in this habitat — averaging 60 to 100 acres each. Other treatments include thinning, herbicide and native grass seeding.

“By promoting healthy oak stands, the partners — Oregon Hunter’s Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife — are working to maximize critical winter forage in the form of white oak acorns,” said Mikal Moore, NWTF regional biologist for the Pacific Northwest. “With their wintering forage needs met, wild turkeys should reach spring in optimal conditions, ready for the high energy demands of breeding and nesting.”

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