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NH seeking public help to track wild turkey broods

From New Hampshire Fish and Game Department

-- The public is again being asked to help track wild turkey broods in New Hampshire this spring and summer.

Fish and Game relies on citizen participation to get as much turkey brood data as possible through the important survey which closes Aug. 31. Results will be posted on the Department's website this fall.

Residents can report seeing groups of turkeys with young online at the Fish and Game turkey brood survey at

Sightings between May 15 and Aug. 31will provide biologists with important information on turkey productivity, distribution, abundance, turkey brood survival and the timing of nesting and hatching.

“Last summer was the first year we held the online turkey brood survey and we were very pleased with the amount of public participation,” said Mark Ellingwood, Wildlife Programs administrator.  “We hope to increase the number of observations and number of towns where hen turkeys and poults are seen.”

In 2011, a total of 808 turkey broods were reported from all parts of the state between May and August. Over half of the brood sightings came from the southern part of the state, where populations are highest for both turkeys and people. This year, biologists are hoping to see an increase the number of reports of turkey broods particularly in northern New Hampshire and along the western side of the state in Sullivan and Grafton counties. 

The term “brood” refers to a family group of young turkeys accompanied by a hen. New Hampshire hens generally initiate egg-laying from mid-April to early May and complete their clutch of about 12 eggs in early to mid-May. Incubation lasts for 28 days, and most nests hatch from late May to mid-June.

If incubating turkey eggs are destroyed or consumed by predators, hens often lay a replacement clutch of eggs that hatch late June through late July. Early spring weather is expected to result in an early hatch this year, as evidenced by several early May brood sightings. Reports of adult male turkeys are not being requested at this time. 

Many factors affect turkey productivity in any given year. Young turkeys are extremely sensitive to cool temperatures and rain, both because it can impact their health, and because these conditions adversely impact insect populations that are a critical source of nutrition for young turkeys. Since spring weather is highly variable, survival of the annual hatch of wild turkeys is also highly variable. 

Turkey populations depend on a large annual influx of young turkeys to sustain themselves over time, so the number of young turkeys that survive to be recruited into the fall population is of great interest to turkey managers. A large sample of turkey brood observations collected throughout the summer can provide turkey managers with insight into the size of the “graduating class” of turkeys that will become adults. This explains why turkey managers throughout the country incorporate information from brood surveys into their management programs. 

New this summer is a section of the survey intended to help assess public attitudes about wild turkeys in the state.

Conducted in cooperation with the University of New Hampshire, data from the Summer Turkey Brood Survey and the recently completed 2012 Winter Turkey Flock Survey relating to public attitudes will be compiled and analyzed as part of a Master’s of Science project to assess public attitudes and interest in monitoring wild turkeys.

It will also provide Fish and Game biologists with information that will enhance their ability to recruit and retain citizen scientists. The public attitudes survey is an addendum to the 2012 Summer Turkey Brood survey and is optional.

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