With the keen ability to adapt, turkeys are being found in areas previously thought to be too harsh. Northern-range turkeys have been resilient through frigid winters, although they aren’t invincible.
If food is available during winter, turkeys can often survive extended periods of extreme cold and snow. However, deep snow and limited amounts of food can greatly decrease the turkeys’ chance of survival.
NWTF chapters in northern states recognize the stress harsh winters put on the birds and have prioritized their efforts to create winter forage habitat through Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. strategic plans.
The Good News: Young forests provide a host of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs. Young stands also are dense enough to provide cover for many small birds and mammals.
The Bad News: Forests are aging. Shrubs are being replaced by mature trees with an open understory offering little cover and declined presentable food opportunities.
Wild turkeys need to consume significantly more food when the temperatures are cold (about 20 grams/day for each decrease in temperature of 10 degrees F), active forest management throughout the Northeast is critical for turkey survival.
Creating habitat turkeys thrive on:
- South-facing slopes, where sunlight limits snow depths
- Conifer stands (particularly hemlock) because their limbs shield the ground
- Food sources such as standing corn, apple trees and shrubs capable of holding fruit
While winter may be touch on turkeys, good management of habitat will ensure a solid future for wild turkeys.