|A tom on the John Day River
-Photo by Mark Kirsch-
Oregon currently supports populations of Rio Grande and Merriam's wild turkeys. Rio Grande turkeys are most numerous and widespread throughout the state. More than 9,600 Rio Grande turkeys have been released during 584 releases in Oregon since 1975. The initial releases of Merriam’s turkeys in 1961 resulted in establishing a remnant population of Merriam’s turkeys along the east-slope of Mt. Hood and natural immigration of turkeys from Idaho has established Merriam’s flocks along the eastern border of Oregon.
Transplanting of wild turkeys into areas with suitable habitat has been the key to establishing and expanding populations. This approach has been vital to providing added recreational opportunities to Oregon residents. The current occupied range of wild turkeys in Oregon encompasses approximately 35% of the state, the majority of additional suitable habitat has received stockings of wild turkeys, and future turkey population densities will vary with food and climatic conditions.
Hunting seasons for wild turkey occur both in the spring and fall. Additional opportunities for both spring and fall hunting exist. Spring, youth-only hunts and expanding hunt areas and allowing multiple tags in the fall season are examples of potential future regulation changes. ODFW will closely monitor fall turkey harvest, since it has the most significant impact on populations.
Wild turkeys can cause nuisance or damage problems to landowners in Oregon. During a 2-year period from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2003 there were 284 turkey-damage complaints filed with ODFW biologists with a combined financial loss of $25,792. The Department has several alternatives to solve damage problems. Protocol and alternatives for solving turkey damage complaints has been specifically addressed in the ODFW wildlife damage policy.
The trap and transplant program was essential for establishing turkeys across the state and remains the main method for reducing or eliminating turkey damage problems. Prior to the implementation of this plan, ODFW followed interim trap and transplant guidelines. Those guidelines allowed continued trapping of birds from in-state depredation and nuisance complaints and those turkeys could be used to augment existing populations. With the development of this plan, specific protocol has been established for the trap and transplant program.
There is concern about releasing turkeys in some areas of the state because of the potential impacts they may have to native wildlife and plants. There are no data however, that substantiate significant competition between wild turkeys and other wildlife or that turkeys negatively impact plant populations. The Fish and Wildlife Commission has adopted the State Wildlife Integrity rules that establish controls to protect native wildlife and designates wild turkeys as game birds. Wild turkeys have been and will continue to be treated by ODFW as a game bird, including management programs to maintain and promote the species.
Wild turkeys provide significant recreational opportunity and economic benefit to Oregon residents. During the spring 2003 season, 14,152 hunters pursued wild turkeys in Oregon. Using U.S. average hunter expenditures, the 2003 spring turkey season in Oregon generated more than $11 million dollars. To maintain this important resource, ODFW needs better surveys to determine wild turkey distribution, understand population trends, and continually evaluate harvest goals and strategies. Research data, public input, statistically valid surveys, and adaptive management strategies will guide ODFW’s management of wild turkeys in the future.
There are several issues and proposed management strategies outlined in this plan. ODFW recognizes the importance of each issue, will take a proactive management approach to address and resolve issues, and will use the best available science for making decisions related to management of Oregon’s wild turkey resource.
The Entire Turkey Management Plan (pdf)
Four Options for Wild Turkey Traps and Transplant Guidelines
This plan dated: June 2004