Turkey Distribution and Trends
Wild Merriam’s Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) were first introduced into Alberta in 1962, when 21 turkeys from South Dakota were translocated to the Cypress Hills in southeast Alberta. In 1972 and 1973, 12 birds from the Cypress Hills population and an additional 13 birds from Nebraska were transplanted into the Porcupine Hills. In 1988, birds from this population were transplanted to an additional two sites in the foothills of southwest Alberta. These preliminary translocations of turkeys are what led to Alberta’s current population of turkeys (Gerald, 1992). Today, wild turkey are primarily located in the southwest foothills area of Alberta.
The demand for hunting turkeys is very high, with 6,000 applicants pursuing 151 tags in 2019 (2.5% draw success), while an additional 16,000 hunters applied to boost their priority level. With 22,000 hunters seeking a turkey tag, it has become a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some, although many will never be drawn at the current allocation rate. Our goals for this project are to understand turkey population dynamics, develop and implement a method to monitor turkey abundance, and collect data that will assist with the allocation of tags for harvest in southwest Alberta.
In 2020, we initiated a citizen science approach to establish and maintain working relationships with landowners in the Beaver Mines, Crowsnest Pass - Livingston, Longview - Turner Valley, Porcupine Hills and Waterton regions; that is, areas that have present or potential wild Merriam’s turkey populations. To date, working with private landowners has enabled ACA to identify the locations of local turkey populations and associated habitat features (e.g., roosts, feeding sites), garner local knowledge, and obtain some counts of birds. Throughout this study we hope to engage private landowners to count local turkeys on their private lands and eventually establish a population trend over time.
To further quantify sub-populations identified by landowners, we undertake some traditional survey methods to confirm local counts and gain more detailed information such as age class, male/female ratio, habitat type, location information, and regional conditions.
Alberta Environment and Parks; Alberta Fish and Game Association – Minister’s Special Licence Program; Landholders in Southwest Alberta; Safari Club International – Northern Alberta Chapter
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