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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

And Today was for the Turkeys

This seems to be our week for experts!  Today we had Mr. Dale from the NWTF talk to us about turkeys.  He was awesome, especially when he told the group personal stories from his work and play! He is all about turkeys!

This began with his work for the Forest Service as a publicist.  He documented the return of the Wild Turkey to Texas.  He talked to the group about the lumber removal in the early 1900s causing the depletion of habitat requirements for the wildlife (his interest being the turkey) and it would not be until  the early 1970s that the Forestry Service to take the initiative to replant and reintroduce the Wild Turkey.  Mr. Dale was there to take photos and videos of this event.

From the article written in our local paper (with Dale's assistance), we learned:  "...turkey numbers continued a slow spiral in the wrong direction despite the thousands of man hours and millions of dollars that were spent restoring them beginning in the 1980s.  All total, more than 8,000 wild trapped turkeys purchased from other states at a cost of $525 each were released on select "block stocking" sites in nearly 60 counties between 1987 and 1995. The project was funded by the National Wild Turkey Federation Texas Super Fund, turkey stamp and public hunting permit sales and private donations.  The theory was the wild transplants would reproduce and expand to the point of being able to withstand the limited hunting pressure of a month-long season outfitted with restrictive harvest regulations, including a one-bird bag limit.

"Beginning in 2007, the TPWD, NWTF and SFA forestry department joined forces to implement a series research projects aimed at unraveling some of the mysteries behind fizzling turkey populations and ultimately turning things around.  At the heart of the project were a series of "super stockings"...A super stocking includes 80 wild turkeys (60 hens and 20 gobblers), more than five times the number of birds utilized in the former block stocking criteria. ...The results from the research have been so encouraging that the department has elected to reopen the eastern wild turkey stocking program, this time using a habitat evaluation tool developed by the TPWD, SFA and the NWTF.  Fittingly called the "Habitat Suitability Index" (HSI), the tool will allow scientists to assess and rank potential eastern turkey super stocking sites for future stockings."

Mr. Dale also spoke about the added effect of fragmentation due to urbanization and future roadways.  He really focused on the youth holding the responsibility of the conservation of wildlife and their habitats.  He encouraged the youth to learn and stay informed for future endeavors, whether in career decisions or as responsible land owners and citizens.

I was happy to see that when he ended the meeting with the 4Hers given the opportunity to ask questions, the youth focused on the needs of the turkey in their habitats.  Mr. Dale was able to discuss some of the specific needs of the Wild Turkey with ease.  We learned that the three main obstacles for increase of the Wild Turkey population were: predators, habitat, and weather.  We are responsible for learning how to maintain and increase this population through our land management techniques.  It was easy to see that Mr. Dale was enthusiastic about turkeys when he told about his encounters with this intelligent bird.  His eyes would light up and he was at ease in his role as educator.

Mr. Dale ended the meeting by giving our group a gift!  What a nice surprise!  He gave us a educational kit which includes curriculum ideas related to the turkey.  I have always wanted one of these kits and it will be nice to have this kit available for future groups.

When Mr. Dale left, we were still able to discuss the White-tailed Deer (many of the same habitat requirements) and discuss species richness and diversity, as well as carrying capacity.  Then we broke into groups to practice a scenario.

A BIG thank you for Mr. Dale sharing with our group!

Here are the basic requirements for the Wild Turkey and White-tailed Deer:

Wild Turkey

Habitat requirements
Diet: various hard mast including acorns and beechnuts; soft mast including blackberries and black cherry; insects and other invertebrates including spiders and snails; miscellaneous seeds; leaves from forbs and grasses; grain from a variety of agricultural crops; chufa tubers
Water: obtain water from diet but will use free-standing water when available
Cover: mature forest, regenerating forest, brushy areas and old-fields with rank cover for nesting; nest is a shallow depression on the ground lined with leaves and/or grass and is usually well concealed amongst vegetation or against some object (such as a tree, log or brush); mature forest, Stages 2 and 3 forb cover, and grain fields for feeding; trees or tall shrubs for roosting

White-tailed Deer

Habitat requirements
Diet: forbs, browse, acorns, beechnuts, grains, grasses and mushrooms; in the northern parts of the range, coniferous browse is very important in winter
Water: obtain most of their water from diet but will drink free-standing water when available
Cover: dense woody vegetation as well as relatively tall early successional cover including native grasses, forbs and shrubs

We also had the group who attended the rodeo give a short presentation about their experience.  It sounds like they learned a lot from the experience and we were all thankful for the information they shared.  Several announcements were made about future events....birding introduction class...private property evaluation, and more!  I look forward to telling about them as the events occur.

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