We've got some wild turkeys here in Texas

Six species of wild turkey live in the United States, three of which made Texas their home. Two of those species - the Eastern turkey and the Rio Grande turkey - can still be found in Texas. The Merriam's turkey, which lived in West Texas, has been extirpated from the state and attempts to restock it have been unsuccessful.

In 1897 the state outlawed turkey trapping for five months of the year to prevent them from going extinct in Texas. Twenty-five gobbler bag limits were initiated, but hard to enforce with the small number of game wardens. In 1919 the legislature finally instituted a three gobbler bag limit and added more game wardens. Landowners also began to participate in conservation.

Restoration of both the Rio Grande and Eastern wild turkey has been very successful. While the Eastern wild turkey occurs mainly in the eastern portions of the state, the Rio Grande turkey can be found almost everywhere. Texas by far contains the highest population of Rio Grande turkeys, over 500,000, but they also live in the midwest and western portions of the U.S., as well as Hawaii, although they were introduced there.

While they have made a comeback in certain portions of the Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairie, including Milam County, land fragmentation continues to be a problem.

Wild turkeys belong to the same family as the bobwhite quail, so habitat issues that limit the bobwhite in our area also limit turkeys, particularly for raising babies. Turkeys range between 2,000 to 5,000 acres

8 to 10 miles) from winter roost and summer nest areas. During spring and summer, the breeding and nesting period, female turkeys require thickets of low growing brush, no more than three feet tall, with weeds and grass that attract lots of insects. During fall and winter turkeys congregate into large flocks and will roost in areas along major creeks and rivers that contain stands of mature hardwood trees.

Wild turkeys are omnivorous. They eat acorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, like American Beautyberry and blackberry, some crops, like oats and wheat, green grasses, forbs, and insects.

Turkeys breed in spring. It can take up to two weeks for the female to lay all her eggs, usually 10-11. Despite being laid up to two weeks apart, all the eggs hatch at the same time. Researchers believe the embryos inside the eggs peep to each other, which stimulates all the babies (poults) to hatch together.

The hen clucks at the poults continuously to mold them into a flock. The babies come to recognize her voice, although she can't recognize theirs! The poults depend on insects for their first few weeks of life. They can consume 3,600 insects daily.

By summer's end the poults leave their mother. Usually two to three poults are alive at this time, due to predation. Turkeys that survive will live on average two to three years.

Wild turkeys have excellent vision during the day but don't see as well at night. They are also fast. They can run up to 25 mph, and can fly up to 55 mph.

If you are interested in providing supplemental food for turkeys, it's best if you can spare two to 10 acres for planting a food plot, as they aren't real keen about artificial feeders. If you do provide grain, move the feeder around from time to time, making sure to keep it near trees or brush. Food plots can be planted with oats, wheat, clover, vetch or rye. Rio Grande turkey season for 2010 in Milam Country will be April 1-30, with a one gobbler limit.

Here is some information about turkeys: http://www. pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_ k0700_0053.pdf

El Camino Real Master Naturalists:

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