Fish and Game officials want input on turkey sightings

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NHF&G is looking for winter reports on turkey sightings. (Courtesy/NHF&G)

CONCORD - The cold snowy start to winter in New Hampshire means wild turkeys are already gathering at backyard birdfeeders and farm sites. The NH Fish and Game Department is asking the public to report sightings of wild turkeys online at starting January 1. Please do not report multiple sightings of the same flock. The state's Wild Turkey Winter Flock Survey runs through March 31.

Last winter, volunteer turkey watchers submitted 998 flock reports, totaling 19,298 turkeys. Reports last year were down from the previous year's totals due to a relatively easy winter in much of the state. Considerable bare ground and abundant acorns resulted in fewer flocks seeking out backyard birdfeeders and farm sites, according to Fish and Game Turkey Biologist Ted Walski.

The online survey is designed to fill gaps in Fish and Game's existing winter flock data collection efforts, adding to the Department's understanding of the abundance and distribution of turkeys during New Hampshire's challenging winter months.

The electronic survey asks participants to report the number of turkeys in the flock, where they were seen, the type of habitat the birds were observed in, and what the turkeys were feeding on (acorns, beechnuts, birdseed, corn silage, etc.).

"This reporting system allows the public to contribute important information to our understanding of winter turkey status in an inexpensive, efficient and, hopefully, enjoyable way," said Walski.

Fish and Game is also asking observers to report any signs of two viruses that have appeared in New Hampshire's turkeys in recent years. "The viruses are not too widespread yet, but we are keeping a close watch," said Walski. "Look for warty protuberances in the head and eye area."

Knowledge of the status of wintering wild turkeys is particularly important in New Hampshire, where severe winter weather and limited natural food supplies can present serious challenges for turkeys.

New Hampshire now has an estimated 40,000 wild turkeys. Their presence here is a true wildlife restoration success story. Wild turkeys had disappeared from New Hampshire's landscape for more than a century because of overhunting and habitat loss from extensive land clearing in the 1800s. Their recovery in the state began with a successful reintroduction of 25 turkeys in Walpole by N.H. Fish and Game in 1975, an event in which Walski participated. Modern-day turkey research and monitoring is funded by the federal Wildlife Restoration Program, supported by the purchase of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment.

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