The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is asking the public to report their wild turkey sightings this winter by participating in the 2024 Winter Turkey Flock Survey.
The survey runs from January 1 through March 31. Information about the status of wintering wild turkeys is very important because severe weather and limited natural food supplies can present serious challenges for turkeys. It’s fun and easy to participate by visiting this website.
“A total of 835 flocks were reported from across the state during the 2023 Winter Turkey Flock Survey, with 15,098 turkeys recorded and an average of 18 turkeys per flock,” said Allison Keating, The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Turkey Project Leader. “This was a slight increase from 2022 when a total of 772 flocks and 13,201 turkeys were reported. The increase in sightings during the winter of 2023 may be the result of more birds being drawn to backyard bird feeders due to a lack of natural food available. The fall of 2022 was not a good season for the production of acorns and beech nuts, two staple mast crops that support turkeys during the winter months.”
The spring and summer of 2023 were some of the rainiest on record. Despite the poor weather conditions for breeding and raising poults, preliminary results from the Summer Brood Survey are showing species resiliency. “It is yet to be determined if the precipitation pattern of the spring and summer will continue into the winter months and result in an abundance of snow,” said Keating. “Deep snow for prolonged periods can make it difficult for turkeys to travel and find food and water during the winter months. The observations people share through the online survey greatly add to the Department’s understanding of the abundance, distribution, and survival rates of turkeys through the winter months here in New Hampshire and we are very appreciative that people take the time.”
During the 2023 Winter Turkey Flock Survey, Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) M in the southern part of the state had the highest number of reported flocks (163), followed by WMU L (127) and WMU J2 (123).
The highest percentage of observed feeding occurred at backyard birdfeeders (73%). Backyard bird feeder sightings were up 11% compared with the previous year. The second highest reported food consumption category was corn or grain (16%). Only 9% of turkeys were reported feeding on acorns and beechnuts, which was a decrease of 12% from the year before. Reported consumption of apples or crab apples was only 2%, which was also a decrease when compared with the 8% reported the year before.
Public attitudes toward winter flocks of wild turkeys continue to be very favorable: 88% of respondents indicated that they like, or strongly like, seeing wild turkeys; 8% of people neither like nor dislike turkeys; while 4% of participants either dislike or strongly dislike turkeys.
The Department also continues to monitor the prevalence of two viruses that are present in the wild turkey population: avian pox and lymphoproliferative disease virus (LPDV). The public is asked to keep an eye out this winter for any turkeys displaying lesions or wart-like protuberances on their head or neck areas and to report these observations through the online survey.
During the winter of 2023, visible lesions that may have been indicative of avian pox or LPDV were reported on 23 turkeys from 11 towns. These findings are similar to the previous year’s survey results. Overall, reports of symptomatic turkeys remain low.
To learn more about these viruses, visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/turkeys/turkey-virus.html.