Pitch in: Count a turkey

Is your summer getting stale?

Have you spent too much time in the lake? Have you climbed too many mountains?

I haven’t, either.

Still, I’m sure that some folks are looking for a new project to embark upon as we near the final month of summer. If that’s the case for you and yours, here’s an idea: Go count some turkeys!

Yes, I said “Go count some turkeys.”

Here’s the deal: The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has announced that the department is conducting its annual turkey survey, and you’re invited to take part.

I’ve got to admit, when I see the words “turkey survey” used during a presidential election year, I start to cackle (or gobble, as the case may be) uncontrollably.

Then I imagine conversations like this: “Hello, Tom. I’m conducting a turkey survey. Do you feel your economic prospects will be better under another Obama presidency, or would Romney be your preferred choice as top bird?”

Alas, it’s not that kind of a survey. Instead, it’s turkey count. And to take part, you must possess two key skills (which, by the way, are more skills than are required to vote in our general election): First, you must be able to recognize a turkey as an actual turkey (and not, say, a ruffed grouse or a turkey vulture). Second, you must be able to distinguish male turkeys (they have beards) from females (they don’t, usually) and poults (they’re small).

See, you’re nearly already qualified to become a top-notch turkey surveyor!

According to the DIF&W press release, August is the best month to survey turkeys, because they’re often “In the air and on fields and roads, exploring and looking for nuts, seeds and berries.”

Of course, that description also fits many of our summer visitors from away. I trust that telling the difference between the tourists and the gobblers shouldn’t be too much of a problem, however.

“These counts are very important because it gives us an idea of how many poults, or baby turkeys, we have entering the population,” said DIF&W information and education biologist Ashley Malinowski in the news release. “We can use that information combined with harvest counts from the previous fall to monitor the population and aid in determining season dates and bag limits in the future.”

If you choose to participate, you’ll be asked to count all the birds in every flock you see, determine how large the poults are in relation to the adults, only count during August, and make sure to avoid counting the same flock twice.

A nifty form is available on line at http://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping/hunting/turkey-broodsurvey_august.htm.

And if you’re not seeing many turkeys, you’re also invited to count female deer and fawns: There’s a spot on the turkey survey form for deer, too.

“When members of the public tell us how many flocks they saw for the month and how many birds in each flock, that’s one less area that our biologists have to spend resources to go out surveying,” Malinowski said in the release. It also allows us to get information from all over the state, including in places we may not travel regularly, but other people do. Citizen science, or studies in which the public’s information is called upon, is extremely important in a lot of biological surveys because any time you are counting things, the more eyes you have on the look-out, the better.”


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.