Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sustainable Harvest Maximizing the Turkey Harvest While Minimizing the Population Impact

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sustainable Harvest Maximizing the Turkey Harvest While Minimizing the Population Impact

Article excerpt

Despite all the No Hunting signs, shooting a wild turkey in Allegheny County is pretty common.

But try taking a gobbler, a buck and a bear in heavily populated 2B. In the same license season. On the same property. Within the same 300 yards. And take the white-tail and black bear with the same crossbow.

Josh Joswiak of West Deer has a great spot in Fawn. For his big- game trifecta, he was recently awarded a Triple Crown by the state Game Commission.

This week, as Joswiak returns to the same property hoping fill his second turkey tag with the crossbow, researchers are crunching the numbers after a five-year turkey study intended to help the Game Commission set more sustainable harvest limits.

Pennsylvania's first spring gobbler season in 1968 was considered an overwhelming success with 1,636 gobblers killed. Since then, the number of turkeys and turkey hunters has grown - managed hunting and habitat changes are credited for exponential growth in the turkey population. Last spring, more than 41,000 gobblers were harvested by some 232,000 hunters - the largest number of spring turkey hunters in the United States.

Nevertheless, the spring hunt has little impact on total turkey numbers.

"Regulating the fall season is where we can have the most impact on the turkey population," said Game Commission wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena.

Throughout her five-year study, some Wildlife Management Units were given an extended three-week fall season while others had the traditional two-week season. Then the season lengths were reversed. Casalena said she and collaborator Duane Diefenbach, of the U.S. Geological Survey's Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, are still evaluating data. The goal, she said, "is to develop a new and more reliable turkey population model."

The study's thesis holds that in general, turkeys can tolerate a 10 percent harvest without significantly impacting the population.

"We're still looking at that," Casalena said, "but it really depends on the population trend - increasing versus decreasing - at the WMU level. An increasing population trend with high productivity can withstand a higher harvest rate. …

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