Allison Keating (603) 352-9669
Dan Bergeron: (603) 271-1742
February 9, 2022
Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is asking the public to report wild turkey sightings this winter by participating in the 2022 Winter Turkey Flock Survey. The survey opened on January 1 and will run 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 www.wildnh.com/surveys/turkey.html.
In 2021, 1,383 reports were received statewide for the Winter Turkey Flock Survey with 24,259 turkeys recorded averaging 17.54 turkeys per flock. “The results from last winter were lower than 2019 when the survey garnered 2,309 flock reports totaling 40,476 turkeys,” said Allison Keating, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Turkey Project Leader. “Both 2019 and 2020 featured survey results that were much higher than 2018 when only 486 flocks totaling 9,833 birds were reported. The increase in observation reports during the winters of 2020 and 2021 may be a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, because more people were at home and able to observe wildlife.”
The average number of turkeys in a flock reported statewide during 2020 was 17.54, which is almost identical to the 2019 winter survey average of 17.53 turkeys per flock. During the 2021 Winter Turkey Flock Survey, Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) M in the southern part of the state reported the most flocks (298), followed by WMU L (198) and WMU J2 (189). WMUs M and J2 also reported high concentrations of turkeys in 2019.
The highest percentage of observed feeding occurred at backyard birdfeeders (63%). Twenty-one percent of turkeys were reported to have been feeding on acorns and beechnuts, while 15% were seen feeding on corn and grain, and 1% were witnessed eating apples or crab apples.
Public attitudes toward winter flocks of wild turkeys continue to be very favorable: 91.1% of respondents indicated that they strongly like or like seeing wild turkeys, 7.3% of people neither like nor dislike turkeys, while 1.59% of participants either dislike or strongly dislike turkeys.
“Many people just like to see turkeys on the landscape because their presence is part of what makes New Hampshire unique,” said Keating. “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 the Granite State.”
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 the head or neck areas of turkeys they see and report these observations through the online survey.
During the winter of 2021, turkeys with visible lesions, which may have been indicative of avian pox or LPDV, were reported in 10 towns from 6 different WMUs. These findings are similar to the winter of 2019 when reports were chronicled from 11 towns and 5 WMUs. Overall, reports of symptomatic turkeys remain low. To learn more about these viruses, visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/turkeys/turkey-virus.html.
Wild turkeys disappeared from New Hampshire’s landscape for more than a century because of unregulated hunting and habitat loss from extensive land clearing in the 1800s. Their recovery in the state began during the winter of 1975 when 25 turkeys were trapped in New York and transferred to Walpole, NH. As that initial population grew, turkeys were trapped and transferred to different locations throughout the state up until 1995. Now, New Hampshire has a robust turkey population estimated at 45,000 birds statewide. Wild turkey management and research is made possible by the federal Wildlife Restoration Program, which is funded by an excise tax on the sale of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment.