Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Sports

March 10, 2007

Wild turkey research project nets more birds

Additional 200-plus relocated in East Texas

Roughly 220 wild trapped eastern turkeys purchased from state agencies in Tennessee and South Carolina have been relocated to select sites across East Texas during the last few weeks, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist Gary Calkins of Jasper.

The birds were released at sites in Anderson, Houston and Nacogdoches counties as part of a year-long research study aimed at giving scientists some clues as to why eastern wild turkey populations are doing well in some areas, not so well in others.

Between 1988 and 2000, TPWD and the National Wild Turkey Federation combined efforts to restore eastern wild turkey populations across East Texas. More than 7,000 turkeys were released in 57 counties during that time frame, which has resulted in legal spring gobbler hunting seasons in 43 counties.

Turkey populations have blossomed on some areas, fizzled in others since the initial restoration project was completed. Experts suspect changing land use practices may have caused the decline of some flocks. They also believe there could be some some genetic glitches that may have prevented birds from select states from taking hold in their new environment.

Calkins said the new stockers are being purchased from South Carolina and Tennessee at a cost of $625 each. Iowa supplied the majority of the turkeys used in the original restoration project. Cost on those birds was $525 apiece.

The biologist added that about 50 percent of the research birds are fitted with backpack-style electronic transmitters. The transmitters emit signals that can be detected up to one mile away using high-tech radio telemetry equipment. Wildlife technicians from the Arthur Temple College of Forestry at SFA will monitor the birds three days a week through next January.

The project got underway in early February with the release of 16 turkey hens at a 10,000-acre site in Anderson County. The area has since been salted with an additional 64 turkeys.

TPWD is expecting the final shipment of 20 turkeys from Tennessee sometime next week. The birds will divided between the two sites in Houston and Nacogdoches counties.

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