Can we help stop the decline of Missouriís turkey population?

Friday, May 14, 2021

Missouriís three-week spring turkey season ended May 9, and many hunters across the region reported frustration at not being able to find, or even hear, birds.

Information from the Missouri Department of Conservation indicates the season harvest was the lowest the state has experienced in more than two decades. That also played out on a local level, with almost every county seeing much lower bird numbers than in recent years.

Over the last several years, the Department of Conservation reported poor spring hatches and predicted poorer hunting because of it.

The department also embarked on a study to determine what was happening to the stateís turkey population. After collecting data for five years, it determined nesting was mostly normal, but many young poults were not surviving until they were 28 days old.

Biologists have said hypothermia caused by cold and wet spring weather, predators such as bobcats and owls, and a possible lack of food or disease likely are the contributing factors.

At the same time, the turkey decline has been seen across most of the middle part of the country.

Other states have done similar studies and have made regulatory changes in an effort to improve turkey numbers, but the Missouri Department of Conservation, to date, has not, and that inaction has drawn sharp criticism from hunters who say something needs to be done before itís too late.

Suggestions have ranged from shortening the spring season and not allowing the harvest of 1-year-old gobblers to reducing the season bag limit or even eliminating the fall season.

Those are the same type of actions Arkansas, Kansas and other states have employed, but Missouri has resisted, saying while they may feel good on the surface, they do not really help.

The Department of Conservation is charged with managing the stateís fish, forests and wildlife, and we want to know what you think. Should the department continue its current course, or should it take some form of action in an attempt to curb the turkey decline and appease hunters?

Vote in our poll at www.darnews.com and our Facebook page.

ó Daily American Republic

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