Wild Turkey in Everglades National Park

In the fall of 1999, Ecostudies Institute, Everglades National Park, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the National Wild Turkey Federation initiated a program to reintroduce turkeys to ENP. Twenty-nine Wild Turkeys (22 females; 7 males) were released in January 2000. A second release of 31 turkeys (20 females, 10 males) was conducted in January 2006. Ecostudies monitored the population using radio-telemetry, camera surveys, and personal observations until 2009.

Wild Turkey in Everglades National Park

Camera

The Florida Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo osceola) was extirpated from the Long Pine Key Region of Everglades National Park (ENP) in the early 1900s. Wild Turkey and six other upland species disappeared shortly after a dramatic reduction in area of the Atlantic rock ridge pinelands. As a popular game bird, hunting almost certainly contributed to the turkey’s disappearance. Historical records suggest that on several occasions efforts to reintroduce turkeys were made, but none were successful. The distance and lack of habitat between the closest source populations in Big Cypress apparently precluded dispersal into ENP, even though the area had recovered from logging and natural fire regimes were restored.

Key Findings

  • Results from our studies showed that released individuals reproduced successfully, as did their offspring.
  • Radio-tagged turkeys primarily used prairie/marsh and pine forest habitats, and these categories made up >90% of the vegetation composition in both the 95% and 50% kernel home ranges.
  • Home range estimates in this study (mean = 16.9 km2) were higher than estimates from other studies.
  • Camera surveys at baited stations were effective in detecting turkeys.
  • The exact population size is unknown, but as of 2012, many turkeys were still being detected on camera surveys run by Everglades National Park Biologists, leading us to believe the population may be well established.

Publications

  • Slater, G.L. 2010. Avian restoration in Everglades National Park: Eastern Bluebird and Wild Turkey monitoring (2008-2009). Final report to Everglades National Park. {PDF}
  • Slater, G. L., and J. D. Lloyd. 2010. Avian restoration in Everglades National Park: avian monitoring, effects of fire, hydrology, and vegetation, and long-term recommendations for management of the pine rockland bird community (2005-2007). Final report to Everglades National Park. {PDF}

Project Supporters

Wild Turkey in Everglades National Park