The Division of Wildlife Resources relocated more than 100 Merriam’s turkeys from South Dakota to eastern Utah on Jan. 17. The project is part of the DWR’s efforts to increase Utah’s turkey population.
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks officials trapped the birds in western South Dakota. Then, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) partnered with the DWR to transport the birds to Utah. Most of the birds were released in Avintaquin Canyon, Yellowstone Canyon and Bitter Creek in northeastern Utah.
About 30 birds were also released near Joes Valley Reservoir in the central part of the state.
The turkeys come from an area with high elevations and cold temperatures, similar to Utah’s conditions. Only healthy birds were moved, and DWR officials expect the birds to thrive.
To ease the turkeys’ transition, officials will feed the birds over the next few months. The NWTF and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) will provide feed and volunteers for the project.
“I was delighted when I got the call that [the DWR] was going to get some birds,” says Mike Pritchett, turkey specialist with SFW. “When they mentioned they could use some help with supplemental feeding, we were right there.”
The DWR reintroduced wild turkey to the state in 1952. Since then, the population has grown to about 20,000 birds.
Image courtesy Utah DWR