Pennsylvania Game Commission
Each summer, Pennsylvanians help track wild turkey populations by reporting their turkey sightings to the Game Commission.
And once again this year, they’ll have two months instead of one to make observations and report them.
The Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Sighting Survey, which until 2019 ran the month of August, again opens July 1 and will run through August. The two-month window follows the current national standard used by all state wildlife agencies, providing comparable data across the wild turkey’s entire range.
Turkey sighting reports can be made through the Game Commission’s mobile app or on the agency’s website, www.pgc.pa.gov.
On the website, click on “Turkey Sighting Survey” in the Quick Clicks section. The mobile app can be found by searching for “Pennsylvania Game Commission” in the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store, and selecting “Turkey Sighting Survey.”
The public is encouraged to report any turkeys observed during July and August. Information submitted helps the agency analyze turkey reproduction. Participants are requested to record the number of wild turkeys they see, along with the general location, date, and contact information if agency biologists have any questions. Viewers can also access results from previous years.
“The turkey survey enhances our agency’s internal survey, which serves as a long-term index of turkey reproduction and is used in our turkey population model,” explained Mary Jo Casalena, agency wild-turkey biologist. “By reporting all turkeys seen during each sighting, whether gobblers, hens with broods or hens without broods, the data help us determine total productivity, and allow us to compare long-term reproductive success.”
Many factors including spring weather, habitat, previous winter-food abundance, predation and last fall’s harvest, affect wild-turkey productivity. The 2019 spring-turkey population was approximately 212,200, which was slightly below the three-year running average of 216,900. With last summer’s sighting survey showing average reproductive success (2.4 poults per hen), the statewide turkey population was stable coming into this year’s breeding season. At the Wildlife Management Unit level, reproductive success in 2019 improved in 10 of 23 WMUs compared to 2018. It was similar to 2018 in three WMUs, but declined to below average in 10 WMUs. Areas where reproduction declined were mainly northern and southeastern Pennsylvania, and within some southcentral WMUs.
Reproductive success in 2019 varied considerably among the Mid-Atlantic states. Poult production was lowest in West Virginia (1.6 poults/hen), and highest in both Maryland and New Jersey (2.7), but sample size varied considerably by state. Large sample sizes in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia provided tighter confidence intervals for these estimates compared to the other states.
“Thanks to the popularity of this survey in Pennsylvania we have high confidence in our estimates,” Casalena emphasized. “Let’s maintain these results in 2020 and even increase participation.”