Help biologists monitor, conserve Kentucky’s wild turkey population by reporting sightings online

Republished from Kentucky Lantern

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State fish and wildlife agencies are conducting scientific research to shed more light on the status of turkey populations — and need the public’s help, according to a news release from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

The department is encouraging anyone who observes wild turkeys in Kentucky during July or August to enter some basic information about their sightings into an online survey portal. Data collected through this survey help the department to better understand turkey population trends over time.

To report sightings, visit fw.ky.gov and enter the key words “turkey survey” in the search bar to access the summer turkey online survey portal. A printable form of the survey may also be downloaded, printed and filled out, then scanned or photographed with a smartphone and emailed to [email protected].

Turkey observation data gained through public participation are used in conjunction with research findings, making this citizen-science data set vital for long-term conservation, says KDFWR.

“The turkey population is studied by department staff and graduate student researchers, but they can only cover a limited area of the state,” said Zak Danks, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Wild Turkey Program coordinator. “Keen-eyed volunteers who report turkey sightings through this survey really expand our ability to monitor the flock.”

The turkey program compiles data from these observations from interested citizens and staff into a statewide index of hatch and survival of young turkeys, or “poults.” This index helps department biologists assess reproductive success, which is important to the sustainability of the wild turkey population.

While Kentucky turkey hunters have reported near-record statewide harvests each of the past two spring hunting seasons, hunters across the southeastern U.S. have reported seeing fewer turkeys in recent years.

“A lot has changed across the Commonwealth since this survey began in 1984, back when turkeys were being released to restore a statewide population,” Danks said. “Today, turkey flocks face many pressures, including predation and disease. Whether we’re talking turkeys or Kentucky’s other native species, having an engaged citizenry to help monitor wildlife will be key to helping us adapt into the future.”

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