Expert: Wild turkey population declines in Georgia and across the country

ATLANTA — For Thanksgiving birds, the word wild is ‘trouble’. There are hundreds of thousands of wild turkeys statewide – but biologists say their numbers are plummeting.

For decades, wild turkeys primarily grew in rural Georgia. UGA biologist David Chamberlain said their decline spanned the region.

“When you look back over the past 20 years, this trend is going down,” says Chamberlain. In some areas it’s faster than others, but in the southeastern states, the trend is the same.”

When the state’s department of natural resources produced a turkey season forecast video in 2015, a state turkey biologist was somewhat optimistic about wild turkey numbers in Georgia.

But since then – Georgia has had to shorten its turkey hunting season, and the number of turkeys hunters can take from the field is known as a bag limit.

That’s because Chamberlain said wild turkey populations have fallen 16% nationally – with Georgia being one of the states leading the way in declines.

“We’re not producing as many birds as we were a few decades ago and demand is still at an all-time high,” said Chamberlain, who is also a turkey hunter.

Wildlife has long been at odds with urban and suburban development. The city of Atlanta had to banish Canadian geese from its water treatment facilities. In residential areas, deer are often spotted and sometimes accidentally trapped between fences and houses. Wild turkeys, which can be somewhat aggressive, have also had awkward encounters in areas dominated by species higher in the food chain.

As cities expand, wild turkeys, like other wild animals, also find themselves sharing smaller spaces.

“We are creating landscapes that are better predator habitats than turkey habitats,” said Chamberlain, referring to linear landscapes such as roads, utility priorities and roads. urban wear.

The wild turkey was almost completely extinct in the early 20th century but has since returned with the help of conservationists. Chamberlain said it’s still possible that turkeys will return again this century.


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