Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wild Turkeys in New Jersey

Though you won't find them on the NJ endangered or threatened species list, this is a good time to write a bit about wild turkeys in NJ.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife started a Turkey Restoration Project in 1977 that is a great wildlife management success story for New Jersey. That was needed because by the mid-1800s, turkeys had disappeared in New Jersey due to habitat changes and killing for food.

Division biologists, in cooperation with the NJ Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, reintroduced wild turkeys in 1977 with the release of 22 birds.

In 1979 biologists and technicians began to live-trap and re-locate birds to establish populations throughout the state. By 1981 the population was able to support a spring hunting season, and in December, 1997, a limited fall season was initiated.

There is now an abundance of wild turkeys throughout the state with turkeys found wherever there is suitable habitat. People from outside NJ are always amazed when I tell them that wild turkeys are present even in suburban areas. I pass them every week on my daily commute through suburban Essex County and into Passaic County.

Even in South Jersey, where wild turkeys had been struggling just a few years ago, intensive restoration efforts have improved population numbers significantly.

The population is estimated at 20,000 - 23,000 with an annual harvest of more than 3,000.

The kind of food, cover and water present in an area determines the suitability of that habitat for turkeys. Different foods are preferred during the four seasons. Turkeys may use different areas in the winter than they do during the spring and summer.

Because food plants are distributed variably throughout turkey range, principal foods are given here as generalities.

      Principal Foods During the Four Seasons
Winter Spring Summer Fall
Acorns Acorns Grass, leaves Sedges
Grass, sedge Grass, sedge Blackberries Acorns
Corn Corn Acorns Insects
Wild grapes Beechnuts Wild cherries Beechnuts
Dogwoods Burdock Huckleberries Wild grapes
Sumacs Ferns Bristle grasses Wheat
Beechnuts Non-woody legumes Blueberries Corn
Honeysuckle Wild grapes Wild grapes Insects
Wild cherries Insects Black gum Hawthorn
Buckwheat Buttercup
Sedges Wild rye



2009 Wild Turkey Hunting Season Information Booklet
2009 Turkey Hunting Area Map and Lottery Quota Information

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