Eastern wild turkeys from Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia will call parts of eastern Texas home over the next few weeks, thanks to the efforts of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD).
We have three sites, a Wildlife Management Area, private property and a mine site where we plan on releasing the birds,” said TPWD Upland Game Bird Specialist Jason Hardin. “We plan to release the birds in northwest Anderson County and central Rusk County, near the town of Henderson.”
It’s all part of the NWTF’s national initiative called Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.
It’s the same old story,” Hardin said. “The birds were essentially wiped out by subsistence and market hunting along with extensive habitat loss in the later parts of the 19th century, but with the help of the NWTF, we have been able to bring the birds back all across the country. Although more than 50 counties in east Texas were stocked during the 1980s and 1990s only 28 counties are open for turkey hunting today. So we had to start looking at why we were not as successful in keeping the Eastern wild turkey population flourishing as other states in its historic range.”
The NWTF’s Texas State Chapter is playing a significant role in footing the bill for transferring the birds.
The NWTF and the Making Tracks program has really helped us through the years,” Hardin said. “NWTF Regional Biologist Scotty Parsons is always with us when we evaluate habitat sites and the Texas State Chapter is covering a significant portion of the cost of transporting the birds. Help with the gas bills and plane tickets have been a real boost. We couldn’t do what we do without NWTF volunteers and employees. Hopefully, one of these days we’ll have enough birds so we will not need to rely on other states for our Eastern wild turkey restoration efforts.”
More Eastern wild turkeys are on the way.
This restoration effort in Texas is unique,” said NWTF Assistant Vice President for Conservation Programs Tom Hughes. “It’s an area where we helped with trap and transfer work in places years ago. Maybe there was a change in the habitat, you had less prescribed fire than was needed, too much rain or not enough. Whatever the reason, we are going back to the area and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is really committed to getting it right this time.”
Hughes says it’s an unusual circumstance in Texas, since most wild turkey populations did well following earlier trap and transfer efforts.
This one did too, for a while,” said Hughes. “But, from our standpoint, we are still committed to making sure turkeys have the best chance they can for survival. We are still practicing what we preach and have been since 1973.”
Learn more about the NWTF’s Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative at www.nwtf.org. The organization is celebrating its progress on Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. at its annual convention and sport show, Feb. 13-16, in Nashville, Tenn.
Image courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Department