EDGEFIELD, S.C. — The once rare gobble of the wild turkey is becoming more commonplace in areas across North America, thanks to the work of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Making Tracks program.
Over the past year, wildlife agencies with support from the NWTF have relocated 3,238 wild turkeys throughout the continent. Since the 1950s, more than 195,000 wild turkeys have been moved into appropriate habitat.
Making Tracks is a cooperative program between the NWTF and state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies to restore wild turkeys to all suitable habitat in North America.
Pushed to the brink of extinction in the early 20th century, wild turkeys have undergone a strong resurgence over the past several decades thanks to the vigilant work of the NWTF and its partners. Today, the wild turkey population stands at more than seven million, and their numbers have doubled since 1990.
The Making Tracks program is making big improvements nationwide. In Great Falls, Mont., where 156 Merriam’s wild turkeys were released this past winter, NWTF Montana State Chapter President Bodie Grundel says the newly-arrived birds have generated a lot of excitement among outdoor enthusiasts.
“Almost every day, I hear from someone around town, whether it be a turkey hunter or a bird watcher, who is glad to see these beautiful Merriam’s here in Montana,” said Grundel.
In Mohave County, Ariz., the Making Tracks program helped release 55 Rio Grande wild turkeys into the northwestern corner of the state. Wildlife officials are hoping the relocation will mark a new era for wild turkey hunters in the Grand Canyon State.
“I am excited to report that we have written another chapter in the history of wild turkey management in Arizona,” said Luke Thompson, Arizona Game & Fish Department wildlife manager. “This release is the direct result of cooperation by all partners involved, and we all have something to be proud of.”
NWTF’s Director of Agency Programs Robert Abernethy stated that although much of the Federation’s recent focus has concentrated on Western states in the U.S., “we helped transfer wild turkeys to all corners of North America last year.”
“In areas where they are abundant, wild turkeys are usually trapped via nets propelled or dropped over a feeding flock,” said Dr. James Earl Kennamer, NWTF’s senior vice president for conservation programs. “Trapped birds are individually placed in specialized transport boxes, and then released in suitable areas with few or no wild turkeys.”
The NWTF routinely provides trapping equipment and transfer boxes, and helps coordinate wild turkey transfers between states, provinces, Indian tribes and nations. The projects are supported by NWTF Hunting Heritage Super Fund dollars and corporate partners.
The NWTF Hunting Heritage Super Fund program pools money raised at Hunting Heritage banquets, donated by corporate sponsors, and given to benefit wildlife conservation. Since 1985, the NWTF and its cooperators have spent more than $258 million upholding hunting traditions and conserving more than 13 million acres of wildlife habitat. While reflecting upon the program’s success, Abernethy noted that “teamwork got us where we are today, and it will get us to where we want to go in the future of wild turkey conservation.”
“Achieving success through the Making Tracks program has been a huge collaborative effort, but the NWTF and its project partners are getting results, and we’re not stopping here. We will keep working so that more people will have the opportunity to see and hear these beautiful birds in the wild,” said Abernethy.