Pennsylvania Game Commission Seeks Public Input for Wild Turkey Survey

Wild turkeyPhoto by Mohan Nannapaneni on Pexels.com

HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Game Commission is calling on residents to participate in its Annual Wild Turkey Sighting Survey this summer. Running from July 1 through August 31, the survey aims to gather crucial data on turkey populations across the state.

Why Public Participation Matters

Public involvement plays a vital role in managing the state’s turkey population. Data collected from the survey help the Game Commission assess total turkey productivity and compare reproductive success over time, both within Pennsylvania and across other states. This information feeds into a larger turkey population model that tracks trends and informs management decisions.

How to Participate

Residents can report sightings of wild turkeys through the Game Commission’s website. Participants are asked to note the number of turkeys seen, along with the county, township, wildlife management unit (WMU), date, and their contact information. This helps biologists follow up if needed. A “pin” can be dropped on a map for automatic location data entry. Importantly, this information is used solely for the survey and is not shared or used for law enforcement purposes.

Game Commission Turkey Biologist Mary Jo Casalena highlighted the value of the survey. “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,” she said. Casalena encouraged participants to report all sightings, whether they involve gobblers, hens with broods, hens without broods, or turkeys of unknown sex and age.

Factors Influencing Turkey Populations

Several factors affect wild turkey productivity, including spring weather, habitat conditions, winter food abundance, predation, and the previous fall’s harvest. Last summer, the statewide reproductive success rate was 2.9 poults (young turkeys) per hen, slightly down from 3.1 poults per hen in both 2022 and 2021.

At the WMU level, reproductive success varied significantly. In 2023, 15 of 22 WMUs saw reproductive success rates that were either above or similar to the previous three-year average. However, seven WMUs recorded below-average success, compared to six WMUs in 2022.

Importance of Community Involvement

This survey relies on data from both agency personnel and the public. The large sample size from diverse regions of Pennsylvania contributes to the survey’s reliability. “Thanks to the large sample size from all corners of the Commonwealth, we have high confidence in the results,” Casalena noted. She urged Pennsylvanians to maintain these robust participation levels in 2024 and strive for even greater involvement.

Implications for Wildlife Management

Accurate data on turkey populations help the Game Commission make informed decisions about wildlife management. Understanding reproductive success and population trends enables more effective conservation strategies. These efforts ensure healthier turkey populations and contribute to biodiversity and ecosystem stability.

In summary, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Annual Wild Turkey Sighting Survey is a valuable tool for wildlife management. Public participation enriches the data, leading to better-informed decisions and more effective conservation efforts. Residents are encouraged to take part in the survey and contribute to the stewardship of the state’s natural resources.

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