Wildlife biologists conducting a new study want to examine at least 30 turkeys taken in Livingston and Crittenden counties during this weekend’s opener of the spring turkey season.
Zak Danks, turkey biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said concerns voiced by local hunters spurred the research.
“Folks in this area are saying they haven’t been seeing as many turkeys as in the past, and I can attest to that,” he said. “The recent downward trend in spring harvest in these two counties is puzzling, considering that in most counties, harvest – our best measure of overall abundance – has been stable or increasing.”
Biologists want to examine hunter-killed turkeys to check the body condition and look for parasites. Researchers also want to obtain samples of each animal’s blood, organs and other tissues to test for disease or other issues.
Participating turkey hunters can keep the meat, beard, spurs and tail fan. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife staff will breast out birds and answer questions from hunters.
Hunters willing to participate in the survey should take their turkeys to the inspection area at Tambco gas station, 354 West Main Street, in Salem, Ky. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will staff the area from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Central time) April 14-15.
Participating hunters must still check their birds either through the TELECHECK phone system (1-800-CHK-GAME), or online at fw.ky.gov.
“Right now, we have no evidence to suggest a disease issue or any specific threat,” said Danks. “Disease is one of many factors that make turkey populations fluctuate, along with habitat conditions, weather patterns, predators and hunting pressure, both legal and illegal.
Danks said voluntary participation by hunters allows will allow researchers to assess the baseline health of harvested birds, which is largely unknown to this point. “It’s a first step in what we hope can become a comprehensive research effort to inform our management of a resource so dear to local hunters and citizens,” he explained. “It also gives us a chance to hear from hunters directly, and to explain what we know and don’t know.”
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife plans to notify a number of hunters licensed in Crittenden and Livingston counties by mail or through email. Danks also is developing a turkey hunter survey to gather additional information from hunters.
For more information, see https://fw.ky.gov/Hunt/Pages/Spring-Turkey-Hunting.aspx, or call 1-800-858-1549 or 270-965-3921 ext. 110.