Texas is stocking turkeys to revive native populations with transplanted hens and gobblers.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is bringing around 240 turkeys to East Texas in an effort to restore the bird in its original and historic range. A partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation is bringing the turkeys from Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, transporting them first to a TPWD facility in Tyler, Texas, then to neighboring wildlife management areas.
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By this point, about 100 of the total turkeys have made the trip. Each is given a metal leg band and fitted with a GPS device. Gus Engeling WMA and two others are scheduled for turkey stocking, and will receive 80 turkeys each.
States that provide the turkeys are given $500 for each bird, funded by TPWD’s Upland Game Bird Stamp program.
“It’s the same old story,” Jason Hardin, TPWD turkey program leader, said in a release. “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,” Hardin continued. “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 earlier stocking periods of the 1980s and 90s that Hardin eluded to were, as he said, ultimately unsuccessful. More than 7,000 birds were transplanted during that time, but the populations didn’t sustain. The process has since been streamlined and perfected, with data and research from other states and an improved three-to-one ratio of hens to gobblers. Turkeys also spend less time traveling and will be closely monitored.
US turkey populations were around 30,000 in 1900, but were restocked and restored throughout the country to reach today’s numbers of more than 7 million.
Though those figures are encouraging, Texas is looking at this “Super Stocking” as one of the last efforts likely to happen in an attempt to boost their populations in the state. Should this technique be deemed unsuccessful, it would be difficult to convince more time, money and effort be expended.
The TPWD and Texas hunters hope it works, but for the most part, it’s up to nature and the turkeys now.