4/2/2013 10:48:00 AM State wildlife managers trap turkeys on the North Kaibab
Wildlife managers release wild turkeys. Photo/Kaibab National Forest
Wildlife managers with the Arizona Game and Fish Department have begun a two-year study to better understand the survival of wild turkeys in northern Arizona.
Known as Merriam's turkeys, the birds are common throughout the west and provide a popular recreational hunt in Arizona during the spring and the fall.
State wildlife managers are conducting the study to find out what proportion of the hen population is harvested each fall.
The fall harvest is primarily made up of hen and juvenile turkeys. If harvest exceeds a certain threshold, harvest could impact the population. In addition, the study will give information on seasonal survival rates.
"Turkeys normally lay 12 eggs in the spring, but we found that each hen this fall had around two to five poults. By mid-winter less than one poult per hen had survived," Region 2 Game Specialist Tom McCall said. "We're trying to find out how the fall harvest and the winter conditions contribute to this mortality."
McCall said hen turkeys can live as long as seven years in the wild, but typically survive no more than three years.
Precipitation, winter severity, forage availability, and predators like coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions affect the turkey's survival. Other factors include hunting and natural causes.
During the last three months, wildlife managers trapped 96 turkeys in Game Units 8 and 12A West, on the Williams Ranger District and the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest.
With volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation and the U.S. Forest Service, wildlife managers trapped 44 turkeys near Williams and 52 turkeys on the Kaibab Plateau using rocket-propelled nets at various bait sites.
It was the first time since 1996 that turkeys have been trapped in these areas.