Skip to main content

Idaho Fish and Game

Wild hen turkey with a GPS-backpack

Wild turkeys with backpacks - a project to learn more about nesting, habitat use and survival of wild turkeys in North Idaho


Idaho Fish and Game staff in the Panhandle recently launched a project to better understand wild turkey populations in North Idaho

Turkeys, turkeys and more turkeys. Anyone who has lived in the Panhandle for more than a couple of months knows there is no shortage of wild turkeys in North Idaho. While some might understandably find wild turkeys pesky, many others continue to value the incredible hunting opportunity they provide. 

To better understand the robust turkey populations in the Panhandle, Idaho Fish and Game staff spent some time late-winter and early-spring putting leg bands and GPS-backpacks on wild turkeys.

When asked why the information is important, Micah Ellstrom, Regional Wildlife Manager in the Panhandle Region said, “Turkey populations are in decline in some areas across the nation, but not here in North Idaho; it seems to be the opposite. By gathering information while turkey populations up here are doing well, we will be better positioned to respond should things change with wild turkeys in the Panhandle. Ultimately, the information gained will better inform harvest and population management of the species into the future.”

Wild turkeys were captured in select locations in Bonner and Kootenai Counties using baited funnel traps. After being trapped, thirty adult hens were outfitted with GPS-backpacks and leg bands, and more than 120 additional male and female turkeys were outfitted with only leg bands.

Wild turkey with a leg band

Hens with GPS-backpacks will be tracked over the next few years, with a particular emphasis on better understanding when and where they nest and how successful their nesting attempts were. In addition, information will be gained regarding turkey survival from any leg bands encountered by hunters as well as data gathered from the GPS-backpacks. There is relatively little known about turkey ecology in Idaho, and this is the first project of its kind to shed light on nesting, habitat use and survival of turkeys in North Idaho.

With the turkey season opener only two weeks away, here is a friendly request that if you happen to harvest a bird with a leg band, please report it to the Panhandle Regional office at (208) 769-1414. You can keep the band plus learn when and where your harvest was banded. All information gained from the study will help Fish and Game better manage wild turkeys and continue to provide fantastic hunting opportunities for them.

Wild turkeys in a funnel trap

The project was made possible in part by funding and support from the Idaho Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Follow the Panhandle Region Facebook page to get regular news and updates.