Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rains' Effect on Turkeys Unclear

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rains' Effect on Turkeys Unclear

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Julavits, Times-Union outdoors editor

Spring gobbler season opens Saturday, and if the recent pattern of torrential rains continues, this year's birds may be wearing water wings.

Flooding of low-lying turkey habitat can be a boon to hunters -- or a curse, depending on the circumstances.

"If it gets deep enough, turkeys won't be able to forage in those flood plains," said Larry Perrin, coordinator of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's turkey program.

"If you have extensive flooding, turkeys will change their home range. They'll shift to other land. It could be beneficial to hunters, because it may concentrate turkeys on some of the upland habitat."

The other side of that coin is that some birds could become inaccessible. For instance, hunters may be cut off by high water from turkeys that roost on an island in a swamp, assuming that island has an adequate forage base.

Under extreme flood conditions, turkeys have been known to remain on the roost and forage in the trees when the ground below isn't suitable for a fly-down. But that's rare, Perrin said.

Of course, not even the weather guessers know how wet the woods will be come Saturday.

From a turkey's point of view, it's better to have heavy rains now during breeding season than during nesting season, which typically runs from the end of March through May.

"Turkeys are ground nesters, and if you have a significant amount of rainfall during nesting season, you can have some flooding of nests," Perrin said. "Wet springs are not normally considered good for a bumper crop of turkeys being hatched out during the nesting season.

"Right now, I don't think we've had too much negative impact."

Statewide, turkey populations remain relatively stable. But Perrin tempers that assessment.

"Where we have turkeys, they seem to be doing very well," he said. …

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