State agencies discuss declines in wild turkey population

The Wild turkey population in Mississippi is declining.
The Wild turkey population in Mississippi is declining. Special to the Sun Herald File

The wild turkey harvest in Mississippi is declining.

The Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks; the Mississippi Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation; and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks staff discussed the continual statewide decline in wild turkey harvests during its open educational session in November.

According to the MDWFP, the spring gobbler harvest was at an all-time high in 1987 with a little less than 60,000 gobblers. Last year’s numbers was about 22,000.

“Our numbers saw a dramatic drop between the late 1980s and early 1990s,” MDWFP Wild Turkey Program Coordinator Adam Butler said in a press release. “While substantial, that crash was not totally unexpected since we were coming off the restocking era when populations exploded and likely overshot what their habitats could support.

“However, the declines we have seen since 2005 are much more troubling because they follow a period of population stability throughout most of the ’90s and early 2000s. Other states are also seeing the same thing happening, and so the time to act is now.”

The three organizations discussed initiatives regarding statewide turkey management, including having sportsmen in active management of habitat and predator populations.

“I believe if every turkey hunter does their part, we can double Mississippi’s turkey population,” Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks chairman Billy Deviney said.

The MDWFP will also implement a voluntary harvest-reporting system for the spring season, which starts March 15. Hunters must register their harvests online. Mississippi is one of only three states without a harvest-reporting system. The goal is to get a more-detailed look at the turkey flock, which the Mississippi Chapter of the NWTF supports.

“It is an important step in Mississippi’s proactive, comprehensive plan to address what is occurring with our treasured wild turkey populations,” Mississippi NWTF President Nelson Estess said.

James Jones: 228-896-2320, @_jkjones