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Summer Turkey Sighting Survey Results 2009

DEC conducts the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey annually during the month of August to estimate the average number of wild turkey poults (young of the year) per hen statewide and among major geographic regions of the State. This index allows us to gauge reproductive success in a given year and allows us to predict fall harvest potential. Weather, predation, and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival.

In 2009, there were 441 usable records of hen-flocks. This is a 15% increase from 2008 (385), but is below the 10-year average for hen-flocks observed (594). Reproductive success from the 2009 survey was about 2.3 poults/hen. This is a decrease of about 26% from 2008 (3.1 poults/hen) and is well below the 10-year average (3.2 poults/hen; Figure 1). This represents the second straight year of declines in this index, and is the lowest estimate of production since the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey began in 1996. About 24% of the hen-flocks observed did not have poults (vs. 18% in 2008 and 16% in 2007). This is the highest proportion of "barren" hen-flocks since 2002. Production was below average across the state with the exception of DEC Region 4 in east-central New York (3.5 poults/hen; Table 1).

Poor reproductive success in many regions is likely a result of above-average rainfall during May and June. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service indicate that from April 1 through the end of June (the critical nesting period for turkeys) average rainfall was about 1 inch above normal statewide; however, rainfall amounts varied widely across the state with the East Ontario Plain (northern NY) and Coastal Lowlands (Long Island) experiencing rainfall two to six inches above normal through the end of June, and the Central Appalachian Plateau (west-central NY) almost two inches below normal (see Figure 2 for a map of areas listed here). It is important to note that turkeys in areas with favorable weather may still experience low nest and brood success due to poor habitat quantity and quality on a local (e.g., lack of brood-rearing habitat) or landscape (e.g., poor interspersion of agricultural habitats) scale.

Based on poor production during summer 2009, we anticipate that the fall 2009 harvest will be down from 2008 and below the ten-year average (about 14,500 birds). Furthermore, areas with good mast production will present another challenge to hunters. In years where there is abundant hard and soft mast, turkeys do not have to roam as far to locate food, thus they are less vulnerable to harvest.

Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey Poults/Hen 1996-2009

Figure 1. An index of wild turkey productivity (poults/hen) in New York State from the Summer Sighting Survey (1996-2009) and the fall turkey harvest (1986-2008). Dashed lines represent the 10 and 20-year average poult:hen ratio for the Summer Sighting Survey and fall harvest, respectively.

Table 1. An index of wild turkey productivity (poults/hen) by DEC Region from the Summer Sighting Survey, 2005-09.
DEC Regiona 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Region 1 & 2 5.1 1.5 4.4 3.8 1.2
Region 3 3.1 2.8 2.5 3.5 2.5
Region 4 4.1 3.4 4.4 3.7 3.5
Region 5 2.5 1.5 3.2 1.9 2.1
Region 6 3.0 2.1 2.9 2.6 2.0
Region 7 4.5 3.0 4.5 3.1 2.2
Region 8 3.5 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.1
Region 9 4.0 4.3 3.0 3.3 1.9
Statewide Average 3.7 2.7 3.5 3.1 2.3

a View map of DEC regions.

Table 2. Wild turkeys observed by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) Aggregate from the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey, 2009.
WMU Aggregate ID # a # Hen-Flocks Observed Poults/Hen
Champlain Valley & Transition 2 20 1.6
Central Adirondacks 5 40 2.3
Northern Adirondacks 3 14 2.1
Tug Hill 6 3 3.5
Tug Hill Transition 7 23 2.4
St. Lawrence Valley 1 17 3.3
East Ontario Plain 4 32 1.3
Oswego Lowlands 9 12 2.8
Great Lakes Plain 8 25 2.6
Oneida Lake Plains 10 21 2.0
Central Appalachian Plateau 15 10 3.2
East Appalachian Plateau 16 18 2.1
North Appalachian Hills 13 13 3.7
West Appalachian Hills 14 32 1.5
Otsego-Delaware Hills 17 14 3.0
Catskills 18 43 3.5
Neversink-Mongaup Hills 21 15 2.1
Mohawk Valley 11 31 2.0
Hudson Valley 19 32 3.2
North Taconic Highlands 12 10 2.2
South Taconic Highlands 20 6 3.7
New York City Transition 22 n/a n/a
Coastal Lowlands 23 10 1.2

a Identification number applies to Figure 2 (see below).

Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey Poults/Hen Map 2009

Figure 2. Poults/Hen in various WMU aggregates of New York State from the Summer Sighting Survey, 2009. Statewide average poults/hen was 2.3 (n=441). Poult/hen calculations based on number of hen-flocks observed in each aggregate (see Table 2). For WMU Aggregate names see "ID #" in Table 2. Aggregate in white had no observations reported; this is sampling artifact and is not indicative of production in this area.