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March 4, 2020

Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission hosted biologists and land managers from Arkansas and neighboring states to collaborate on an apparent decline in eastern wild turkey numbers seen across the Southeast. The meeting was held at the AGFC’s Little Rock headquarters and included presentations by biologists, researchers and conservation experts from Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana.

“Arkansas isn’t alone in the apparent decline in turkey productivity,” said Jeremy Wood, Turkey Program coordinator for the AGFC. “It’s an issue that is on the minds of conservation agencies across the South. Even traditional turkey hotspots like Missouri are seeing decreases in harvest.”

The issue isn’t only seen in harvest totals, but in brood surveys conducted after turkey season ends.

“The standard that most turkey biologists want to see in poult production is about two poults per hen seen based on statewide observations,” Wood said. “That’s the amount of reproduction we need to just maintain or slightly increase populations. Very few areas in the entire Southeast have consistently seen that two-poult-per-hen mark in the last few years.”

The workshop included contributions from state turkey biologists from Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana and Arkansas’s district biologist from the National Wild Turkey Federation on current trends in turkey biology and many of the factors at play in each state’s management issues. Professors from the University of Arkansas at Monticello and University of Georgia also spoke about turkey reproduction studies and how managers can best use science to back decisions on future management strategies. The role of predators, disease, decreasing habitat, hunting pressure and prescribed fire all were covered in the collaborative meeting to help biologists stay on the same page with the latest science and initiatives to help the eastern wild turkey. Many of these topics are discussed in-depth by presenter Michael Chamberlain, Ph.D. from the University of Georgia on his social media feed.

“We’re all working toward the same goal, but each state and agency has a different set of obstacles and conditions affecting their success,” Wood said. “This workshop lets us compare our efforts and move forward together.”