Funding will help improve wild turkey habitat in Ohio

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After near extinction in the late 1800s, wild turkeys have been successfully reintroduced to all 88 Ohio counties, including the areas of intensive agriculture in the northwest. Wildlife biologist Mark Wiley said they can survive in these areas by making their homes in wooded areas along creeks and streams, then taking advantage of the grain left in farm fields. (Tim Daniel, Ohio Division of Wildlife, photo) rOriginal Caption:

COLUMBUS — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announced a statewide effort focused on creating and improving wild turkey habitat in Ohio. 

Private landowners and producers can apply for funding through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Applications for EQIP are taken on a continuous basis; however, interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local NRCS service center prior to the Jan. 14 signup deadline for fiscal year 2022 funding.

Wild turkeys were absent from the state for more than 50 years before they were successfully reintroduced to southeast Ohio in the 1950s. The wild turkey population grew and expanded for decades thanks to restoration efforts by the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Turkey Federation, habitat improvement and the adaptability of the species. 

Although often associated with mature forests, wild turkeys live successfully in areas with as little as 15% forest cover. Wild turkeys are now found in all 88 counties in Ohio and have become the state’s most popular upland game bird. 

Although Ohio’s wild turkey population remains relatively strong, annual fluctuation is common. These fluctuations are largely influenced by annual rates of reproductive success, specifically the survival of nests and young turkeys (poults). Several consecutive years of below-average reproductive success caused a recent depression in wild turkey numbers. Providing quality habitat for wild turkeys increases the chance of nesting success. 

Landowners who implement these practices will not only promote wild turkey habitat, but further enhance their property value to other species such as songbirds, white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits and pollinators. 

Landowners interested in EQIP funding for wild turkey habitat should reach out to their local Ohio USDA service center or visit the Ohio NRCS EQIP webpage for more details.

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