MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. — Fifty-five Rio Grande wild turkeys were recently released in a remote section of northwestern Arizona. The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and its partners are hoping the event will usher in a new era for wild turkey hunters in the Grand Canyon State.
The release, which occurred January 16 in an isolated section of the Black Rock Mountains approximately 15 miles south of the Utah border, is significant because it adds a new subspecies of wild turkey to Arizona. In addition to Rio Grandes, the state is home to Merriam’s and Gould’s subspecies, which are thriving.
According to Scott Lerich, NWTF regional biologist, the turkeys were trapped near Beaver, Utah, an area with very similar wild turkey habitat to that of the Black Rock Mountains.
“We are very optimistic about the chances of this flock possibly growing into a huntable population within a few years,” said Lerich. “A lot of people are excited to learn that Rio Grandes are now in Arizona.”
NWTF Technical Representative and Arizona Game & Fish Department (AGFD) Big Game Supervisor Brian Wakeling noted that the 55 birds were fitted with wing tags, and eight hens were fitted with radio transmitters to monitor their progress.
“They should adapt well to their new habitat,” mentioned Wakeling. “We feel good about our odds of seeing some nesting activity when we follow up with the birds this spring or summer.”
The release was a coordinated effort between the Arizona and Utah state chapters of the NWTF, the Arizona Strip Bureau of Land Management, the AGFD, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. According to the AGFD, future plans include releasing more Rio Grandes to the area.
“I am excited to report that we have written another chapter in the history of wild turkey management in Arizona,” said Luke Thompson, Arizona Strip wildlife manager with the AGFD. “This release is the direct result of coordination and cooperation by all partners involved, and we all have something to be proud of.”