Date of this Version
Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) populations have been restored and enhanced through introductions and reintroductions in 49 of the 50 states to huntable populations within the last 30 years. Populations are presently estimated to exceed 4 million birds within the United States. In many states, wild turkey habitat includes woodlots interspersed with agricultural lands, and some of the highest known population densities of wild turkeys are found in such areas. This paper will report on existing research, examining perceived versus actual damage caused by wild turkeys. It will also provide information based on a recent survey of biologists from the State Fish and Wildlife Agencies, State Cooperative Extension Service wildlife specialists, and United States Department of Agriculture Animal, Plant, Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services' personnel across the United States who receive reports of both perceived and actual damage by wild turkeys to a diversity of agricultural crops. It will attempt to examine the human dimensions aspect of landowners and managers toward thresholds of tolerance; the economic and recreational user benefits of maintaining high populations of wild turkeys which utilize a diversity of habitats including agricultural lands; and the values placed on recreational use and enjoyment of the wild turkey resource. It is expected that future interactions between wild turkeys and agricultural crops will continue as will efforts and alternatives to prevent damage, explore the tradeoffs, and resolve potential conflicts for the benefit of agricultural producers and the wild turkey resource.