A two-year study to better understand the survival of wild turkeys has taken wing in northern Arizona.
Wildlife managers with the Arizona Game and Fish Department said results of the study will be used to help formulate fall hunting recommendations.
Known as Merriam's turkeys, the birds are common throughout the West.
State wildlife managers undertook the study to better understand what proportion of the hen population is harvested each fall.
The fall harvest is primarily made up of hen and juvenile turkeys. If harvest exceeds a certain threshold, harvest could impact the population, state officials said. In addition, the study will provide information on seasonal survival rates.
"Turkeys normally lay 12 eggs in the spring, but we found that each hen this fall had around two to five poults," said Region 2 Game Specialist Tom McCall. "By mid-winter, less than one poult per hen had survived. We're trying to find out how the fall harvest and the winter conditions contribute to this mortality."
Their survival is affected by precipitation, winter severity, forage availability and predators such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions, as well as hunting and other natural causes.
During the last three months, wildlife managers trapped 96 turkeys in Game Units 8 and 12A West on the Williams Ranger District and the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest.
With volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation and the U.S. Forest Service, wildlife managers trapped 44 turkeys near Williams, AZ, and 52 turkeys on the Kaibab Plateau using rocket-propelled nets at various bait sites.
It was the first time since 1996 that turkeys have been trapped in these areas.
Fifty female turkeys received radio transmitters, attached to their backs using a harness system, and aluminum leg bands.
All the birds were released shortly after capture, except for nine turkeys that were transplanted to the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument on the Arizona Strip in Unit 13B.
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