DNREC seeks volunteers to report sightings of wild turkeys for 2013 survey

July 13, 2013

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Division of Fish and Wildlife is looking for Delawareans to assist with its fourth annual survey on the location and number of wild turkeys in Delaware. The data will help biologists track the health, distribution and reproductive success of the state’s wild turkeys with the goal of ensuring a sustainable harvest of this treasured and robust game species.

“Today, Delaware has a thriving wild turkey population that allows for an annual turkey hunting season, but this was not always the case. The reintroduction of the wild turkey back into Delaware, nearly 200 years after it became locally extinct, remains one of the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s greatest wildlife restoration success stories,” said wildlife biologist Matthew DiBona.

Beginning in early 1984, with support from the National Wild Turkey Federation, Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists released 34 wild-trapped turkeys from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Vermont into Sussex and Kent counties. Reintroductions continued through the 1990s, and once the population had established a foothold in Delaware, a hunting season was opened in 1991. Today, Delaware has a healthy statewide population estimated at 5,000 birds.

To help ensure the continued success of wild turkeys in Delaware, the Division of Fish and Wildlife needs information on the big birds’ annual reproductive success. One simple and cost-effective method is for volunteers to record and report sightings of turkeys during their day-to-day activities. The 2013 survey period began Monday, July 1, and continues through Saturday, Aug. 31.

Upon sighting turkeys, participants are asked to record the date, location and number of adult hens (females), gobblers (males) and poults (young of the year) they observe. Participants are asked to submit their results by Saturday, Sept. 10.

In 2012, survey participants submitted nearly 200 observations that provided valuable insight on turkey production during last year’s breeding season. Reports indicated that reproductive success was mixed in different parts of the state, with coastal areas having higher success than some of the western and southern portions of the state. A summary of last year’s survey results, as well as a data sheet and set of instructions, is available for volunteers to download at Delaware_wild_turkey_survey.

“The wet spring conditions we’ve experienced in June may have negatively affected nest success and poult survival this season, so it’s especially important to get as much participation as possible so that we have a clear picture of turkey production this year,” said DiBona. “Too much rain can flood out nests, and newly hatched poults are susceptible to hypothermia if they get soaked.”

For more information, contact DiBona at 302-735-3600.

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