For some time, wildlife biologists have partnered with the public to monitor and manage wildlife populations. These dedicated people are known as “citizen scientists”.
For over 100 years, these partnerships have primarily been used to monitor birds. However, in recent years, citizen scientist efforts have also focused on a wide range of species, from dolphins to wild pollinators and even spiders.
One of these investigations also deserves our attention. Georgia Wildlife Resources (WRD) biologists call it The Turkey Production Index Survey. However, it is more commonly known as the Turkey Brood Survey or the Wild Turkey Summer Poult Survey.
This study has been around since 1978. However, most Georgians are unaware of it because it was conducted by WRD employees, such as wildlife biologists, technicians, and law enforcement officers. Survey participants recorded all of the turkeys they spotted during their regular business activities.
Recently, the WRD expanded the survey to include all Georgians who hunt wild turkeys or simply enjoy watching them.
The Wild Turkey Brood Survey runs from June to August. This survey does not require participants to change their daily activities. Volunteers are simply asked to record any turkeys they see during their normal daily routine. When one or more turkeys are spotted, participants record information such as the number of hens seen with poults, the number of broods, the number of gobblers and the number of unidentified turkeys.
At the end of the season, data can be submitted either online or by downloading a special application available through your web browser.
Although records of these sightings may not seem large, biologists have found that there is a strong correlation between the number of juvenile turkeys seen during nesting and brood-rearing seasons and hunting season populations. . Additionally, when combined with data collected from hunters during the hunting season, this data is used to determine the size of our wild turkey population and reveal population trends.
Those of us fortunate enough to live in Monroe County are ideally placed to participate in this survey.
Wild turkeys range throughout Monroe County. As such, many of us regularly see turkeys throughout the year. In fact, we see them often enough that we tend to take them for granted. However, we should never assume that we will always have an abundance of turkeys living nearby.
In Monroe County and much of the rest of the state, wild turkeys face significant challenges brought on by land use changes and human population growth. At the same time, in the future, wildlife biologists in the Wildlife Management Section will be challenged to find ways to keep the wild turkey population thriving.
An easy way for us to help them with this task is to participate in surveys like this one. Having more data to work with will allow them to better monitor the state of this valuable resource. By doing so, we will help ensure that we will enjoy hunting (and watching) the local turkey in the future.
Although we are a few weeks away from the 2022 wild turkey hunting season, now is a good time to plan your participation in this valuable survey.
For more information about participating in the survey, visit the Georgia Wildlife Division website.
Terry Johnson is retired program director of the Georgia Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program. He wrote the informative “Monroe Outdoors” column for the Reporter for many years. His book, “A Journey to Discovery”, is available on The Reporter. Email him at [email protected]