Harrisburg, PA – The Game Commission is asking for the public’s help finding turkeys to trap for ongoing and new turkey projects.
The agency is encouraging Pennsylvanians to report the location of any turkey flocks they see between now and March 15. Information is being collected online at https://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/TurkeyBroodSurvey.
Visitors to that webpage will be asked to provide the date of the sighting, the location, and the type of land (public, private or unknown) where birds are seen, among other things.
Game Commission crews will assess sites for the potential to trap turkeys. Turkeys will not be moved; they’ll simply be leg banded and released on site. In four Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) a sampling also will be outfitted with GPS transmitters, then be released back on site, to be monitored over time.
Trapping turkeys during winter is part of our ongoing population monitoring as well as the launch of a large-scale hen study.
Just like the last two winters, the Game Commission will put leg bands on male turkeys statewide. Hunters who harvest one of those turkeys, or people who find one dead, are asked to report the band number by either calling the toll-free number or emailing the email address on the band.
“That gives us information on annual survival rates and annual spring harvest rates for our population model,” said Mary Jo Casalena, the Game Commission’s turkey biologist.
New this year, the Game Commission will put GPS transmitters on 100 hens – 25 each in WMUs 2D, 3D, 4D and 5C – spread across all six regions of the state. The four study areas have different landscapes, turkey population densities, and spring hunter and harvest densities.
“We’re looking at hen population and movement dynamics, as well as disease prevalence,” Casalena said.
Those studies are being done in partnership with Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Futures Program.
The population and movement portion of that work is looking at how landscape and weather impact hen nest rates, nest success, poult survival, predation, habitat use and movement. The disease portion of the study is examining how disease prevalence varies based on landscape and impacts things like the survival and nesting rates of hens of different ages.
Game Commission crews will collect various samples – blood, tracheal, feces and skin – from hens that receive backpack-style transmitters at the time of capture, too, for disease analyses.
Approximately 100 additional transmitters will be deployed each winter through 2025, so that in the end – with transmitters from hens that die being recovered and re-deployed – the Game Commission will be monitoring 400-plus transmittered hens.
Researchers from Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Futures Program will interpret the data collected. Biologists from Maryland and possibly another state wildlife agency will join the project next year, as well.
“It’s going to be the largest turkey project we’ve ever conducted, with the hope of answering many questions regarding current hen population dynamics,” Casalena said.
Finding birds to trap is key to launching all of that work. That’s where the public comes in. Fortunately, Pennsylvanians have a history of helping out this way.
More than 3,800 people, on average, submit Wild Turkey Sighting Survey reports each summer. That information plays a key role in tracking annual turkey reproduction across the state, Casalena said.
She’s hoping the public will be as active in relaying information on the location of winter turkey flocks, too.
“The public has been so helpful in years past,” Casalena said. “So we figured we’d expand on that and ask for help locating winter flocks statewide.”