ARCHER - In hockey, three goals by a player during a game is called a hat trick. In bowling, when you throw three strikes in a row it's called a turkey. As part of a concerted effort to establish a viable population of wild turkeys in the Upper Snake Region, IDFG scored it's third strike this week by releasing 21 more Merriam's wild turkeys near Archer, Idaho.
The goal of the project is to create the nucleus for a regional population that will become large enough for sportsmen to enjoy sometime in the hopefully not too distant future. The birds released came from the Boise Valley in the Southwest Region of the state. Turkey introductions in other regions have been so successful that gobbler populations have outpaced harvest by hunters, resulting in a surplus of birds available for transplanting. Even though all the birds released in transplant operations this winter have been Merriam's each shipment came from a different region of the state, helping assure genetic diversity.
This batch of birds was released at the same location as the first 25 turkeys introduced back in mid-January. According to Senior Conservation Officer Bruce Penske of Rexburg, who assisted with both releases, "When we let these new birds go we were able to count 24 of the birds from the initial release a few weeks ago!" The fact that so many of the original turkeys released were still present and alive is considered by biologists a good sign that the birds are adapting to their new surroundings. A second release occurred a week ago near Roberts, where 45 birds were transplanted from the Panhandle Region.
In other parts of the state, the crucial factor in getting turkey populations to take off has been the willingness of private landowners with cattle operations to allow turkeys to over-winter on their property. Turkeys make use of scattered feed uneaten by cattle, and neither creature seems to be bothered by the others presence. Turkeys from the original Archer release earlier in January were observed mixing among cattle pecking for missed grain.
Because turkeys are polygamous breeders, the bulk of birds being released are female, with only a few males being necessary to guarantee reproduction. Each female will lay from five to fifteen eggs in a crude nest scraped out on the ground. Efforts to trap excess birds are still underway in other portions of the state and future releases will occur in the Upper Snake Region as birds become available.