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RI Department of Environmental Management
DEM ASKS FOR INFORMATION ON WILD TURKEY BROOD SIGHTINGS
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management is asking Rhode Islanders to assist its Division of Fish and Wildlife's wild turkey project by reporting any sightings of wild turkey hens with broods of young turkeys, or poults. DEM biologists need the information to evaluate this year's reproduction of wild turkeys, the survival of the poults, and the population of the state's wild turkey flock.
Last year, 100 turkey brood sightings were reported, according to Brian Tefft, principal wildlife biologist at DEM and head of the wild turkey project. "The information helped us determine the number of young birds that survived after various mortality factors such as predators, poor weather, road kills, or domestic cats and dogs took their toll," Tefft said. The 1999 brood survey showed a ratio of 5.2 young per adult hen surviving until fall, an exceptional production year with reports up 82 percent over 1998. Warm, dry weather favors the production and survival of turkey poults and the drought of last year favored young turkeys. Continuous cool wet weather during the brood period can be devastating for young birds of many species, as they can become chilled and die prematurely. The brood period generally begins in the last week of May and extends through July.
Tefft estimates the overall statewide turkey population at 4,000 birds, and growing. "The distribution and density of the turkey population continues to improve in the state following several years of releasing birds by the Division of Fish and Wildlife's trap and transfer program," Tefft added. This wildlife restoration project began in 1980 and led to the establishment of turkey flocks in Exeter, Burrillville, Little Compton, West Greenwich, Foster, Scituate, and Tiverton. Restoration of the wild turkey was funded by state hunting license fees and the Federal Aid to Wildlife restoration program. Wild turkeys were abundant prior to the 1700s but were decimated due to habitat destruction and subsistence hunting.
Anyone sighting a brood should record the date, the location, and the number of adult hens and poults seen. Brood reports should be turned in throughout the summer period. Please send the information to Brian Tefft, Wild Turkey Project, DEM Great Swamp Headquarters, PO Box 218, West Kingston, RI 02892, or call him at 789-0281.