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2011 Winter Flock Survey Results

The goal of the Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey is to use DEC staff and volunteers to conduct a harvest-independent survey to help determine long-term trends in turkey populations and to provide information to the public regarding the prospects for the spring hunting season. The survey period ran from January 1, 2011 through March 31, 2011 and was open to both DEC staff and the general public. Survey participants were instructed to record flock observations any time during the three-month survey period, but to report each flock observed only once.

View, print, or download the complete 2011 Winter Turkey Flock Survey report (PDF) (570 KB).

Results from Winter 2011

We received 642 reports totaling about 10,200 birds from 49 of New York State's 62 counties (about 13 flocks reported/county, range 1-155/county). This is a decrease of 18% from winter 2010, and a 6% decrease in the average number of birds per flock (17 in winter 2010 vs. 16 in winter 2011). Seven of the 13 counties with no reported observations were the counties that comprise New York City and Long Island. Lack of observations from these 13 counties is not necessarily indicative of turkey population size in these areas. Flock observations and the number of birds observed peaked during the fourth week of January and again during the second week of February, and then declined as flocks broke up in mid to late March.

The Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) aggregates with the highest turkey densities (birds/mi.2 of habitat, where "habitat" is defined as all wooded upland habitats, but does not include agriculture, developed areas, or open water) were the East Ontario Plain (3.2 birds/mi.2) in northern New York, followed by the West Appalachian Hills (1.9 birds/mi.2), Great Lakes Plain (1.3 birds/mi.2), and the Mohawk Valley, North Appalachian Hills, and Tug Hill Transition (0.6 birds/mi.2 each; see figure below). When flock observations are grouped by fall season zone, the highest turkey density was observed in the Appalachian Hills & Plateau (1.2 birds/mi.2), followed by the St. Lawrence Valley (1.0 birds/mi.2), and Lake Plains (0.8 birds/mi.2). The East-Central New York and Adirondacks-Tug Hill season zones trailed far behind with 0.2 and 0.1 birds/mi.2, respectively.

Turkeys spent a disproportionate amount of time in agricultural habitats (pasture, hay, row crops) relative to the abundance of this habitat type on the landscape. Human-created habitats such as lawns, backyards, parks, and golf courses also played an important role for winter turkey flocks in areas such as the Adirondacks-Tug Hill. Some researchers feel these human-altered landscapes have allowed turkey populations to persist in areas such as the Adirondacks where historically they did not exist.

Overall, statewide temperatures were close to long-term averages, but snowfall amounts were significantly above average in many parts of the state with season totals ranging from 17 inches above normal in Buffalo to over 70 inches above normal in Syracuse. The average snow depth reported by survey participants from January through March was 10 inches, and the average temperature was 28°F. While turkeys are well-equipped to cope with New York's winters, lengthy periods of deep snow cover may affect winter survival, particularly of young-of-the-year birds. Birds can better cope with tough winter weather when snow conditions allow them to walk on top of deep snow to locations such as crop fields where they can forage for seeds and waste grain.

2011 Winter Wild Turkey Survey map by WMU Aggregate

Figure 1. Estimated density of wild turkeys (birds/habitat mi.2) by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) Aggregate from the Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey 2011. "High" (>1 bird/habitat mi.2), "Medium" (0.50-0.99 birds/habitat mi.2), and "Low" (<0.50 birds/habitat mi.2) densities based on number of birds observed and estimates of habitat area within each WMU Aggregate. "Habitat" includes all wooded upland habitats, but does not include agricultural habitats, open water, or developed areas (based on 2001 MRLC data).