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Scott M

DNR project to assess wild turkey needs in northern Minnesota

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DNR News Release

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will conduct a research project this winter designed to provide important information to help better manage wild turkey habitat in the bird’s far northern range.

Researchers will examine crop and gizzard contents from 100 wild turkeys to determine diets and body conditions in agricultural and forested areas of 18 north central counties. Food selection will be related to the turkey’s body condition under both limiting and non-limiting snow conditions.

“The eastern wild turkey is a food generalist with a winter diet ranging from more than 20 food species to a restricted diet of just corn,” said Eric Dunton, DNR wild turkey biologist at the Madelia Farmland Wildlife and Populations Research Station. “Results from this study will tell us what their current food options and choices are under various conditions. That should help us better manage northern range habitats to provide the wild turkey with food sources that best meet their needs in this region of the state.”

The project, set to begin in January 2009, will involve collecting 100 turkeys distributed evenly across the 18-county study area. The current statewide turkey population is estimated to be in excess of 70,000. The study area is thought to have a population of between 7,000 and 10,000 wild turkeys. Turkeys will be collected by shooting no more than three birds from a flock. Meat from the collected turkeys will be donated to Minnesota families.

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It will be interesting to see what these birds are eating. I've seen turkeys close to Brainerd and a few birds around Pine City/Hinckley. I know they are further north than that from others observations.

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I hunt across the river from Hinkley in Wisconsin. I believe this to be about the northern fringe of their range. There is no agriculture in this area. Last year we had lots of birds around, this year very few. I believe last winter was hard on them.

I'll bet what they find (and this has been assumed for years) is that their northern range will be determined by areas of croplands, especially corn.

Like in Wisconsin, turkeys will do well most anywhere with mild winters, but one season with heavy snow will tell the true story on where they can really survive.

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Interesting study. I like how the term 'collecting' is used in lieu of killing. I know a turk can eat just about anything, those gizzards are amazing.

A flock was released west of Pine River, anyone hear how those birds have been doing?

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