The Pennsylvania Game Commission is once again seeking public input on its survey of wild turkeys this summer. The Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Sighting Survey opens July 1 and runs through August 31.

Participation is important for managing the turkey population. Survey data allows the agency to determine overall wild turkey productivity and compare long-term reproductive success in Pennsylvania and across states, as this is a standard method used across the country. Data is also used in the turkey population model to track population trends.

The website asks participants to record the number of wild turkeys they see, along with the location, date, and contact information if agency biologists have questions. Viewers can also access results from previous years.

“The turkey survey enhances our agency’s internal survey, which serves as a long-term index of turkey reproduction and is used in our turkey population model,” said Turkish Game Commission biologist Mary Jo Casalena. “Participants must report all turkeys they have seen, whether gobbling, brooding hens, or hens without brood.”

Many factors, including spring weather, habitat, winter food abundance, predation and last fall’s harvest, affect wild turkey productivity. The weather in Pennsylvania during the late spring and summer of 2021 was relatively warm and dry, but varied by the Wildlife Management Unit (WMU), as well as the other factors influencing reproduction. For example, WMUs who experienced the 17-year-old Brood X cicada hatch tended to have excellent recruiting. These include parts of WMU 2C and WMUs 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B and 5C. Cicadas are an excellent source of protein for turkeys and predators that would normally prey on turkey chicks.

This above-average reproductive success last summer (3.1 chicks per hen), coupled with more conservative turkey hunting seasons in the fall of 2021 (shorter seasons in most WMUs and elimination of guns), increased turkey survival into the spring breeding season of 2022. At the WMU level, reproductive success improved in 15 of the 23 WMUs in 2021 compared to the previous three-year average. It was comparable to the previous three-year average in two WMUs (2F and 4E) and fell below average in just six WMUs (compared to a drop in 11 WMUs in 2021). Units that decreased were WMUs 3A, 3B, 3C, 4C and 5D, with a slight decrease in 2D.

Breeding success in surrounding states for 2021 was less than 3.0 chicks per hen in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, but 3.0 or higher in New Jersey and New York.

“Thanks to the popularity of this study in Pennsylvania, we are very confident in our estimates,” emphasizes Casalena. “Let’s keep these results in 2022 and even increase participation.”

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