The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s annual report on wild turkey reproduction contains some familiar numbers, but the agency is interpreting them a little differently. Chris Kreh, the Commission’s wild-turkey project leader, said the poults/hen survival ratio of 1.9 observed statewide the past summer, previously considered “poor” is nothing to worry about.
Kreh said that despite the fact that poult survival did not reach the 2.0 level that is considered “good” it won’t adversely affect North Carolina’s statewide flock.
“Over the last 10 years, productivity estimates have fluctuated between 1.7 and 2.7 poults per hen,” Kreh said. “The productivity estimates for 2014 are relatively low for this 10-year time period, but it’s important to note that productively alone doesn’t predict potential changes in the turkey population.
“The overall turkey population increased greatly during the same time period and the reported spring turkey harvest increased 72 percent.
“Turkey productivity during this time period has been sufficient to expand the population and outpace mortality factors.”
Hens that had poults had fairly good numbers, the average observation being 3.6 poults per hen. However, the percentage of hens observed with poults was not as good.
Observers along the coastal plain reported that 49 percent of all hens had poults, compared with 47 percent in the mountains and 44 percent in the Piedmont.
“The percentage of hens observed with poults is an indication of nesting success, while the ratio of poults to hens observed with poults is an indication of poult survival,” Kreh said. “Overall productivity is indicated by the ratio of poults per hen.
“As seen in previous summary reports, classifying individual estimates as poor, fair, good or excellent can be problematic and somewhat misleading. These estimates are best considered in a relative fashion, comparing the three regions and also evaluating the trends through time.”
Kreh said he is very confident that observations this past summer are accurate because of a larger number of observers watching and counting turkeys. The Commission mailed survey cards to 3,638 participants, including 2,271 N.C. Wild Turkey Federation members and 1,367 others who had participated in past surveys. E-mails announcements in the WRC’s “Wildlife Update” and a statewide news release also helped recruit observers.
“We had participants in all 100 counties, and 2,175 people participated in the survey and made a record 8,690 observations,” Kreh said. “That represented a 114-percent increase in participants and 73-percent increase in observations.”
Participants reported 3,564 turkey sightings via an on-line application and 5,126 via traditional survey cards.
Kreh said the ratio of gobblers to hens observed during the summer was .57 to 1, a rate that has been fairly stable over the past 10 years.