English: Female Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) taken near Rideau River, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
HARRISBURG, PA - With Pennsylvania’s spring gobbler season about to kick off, the state’s turkeys are benefiting –now and in the future – from habitat work performed in partnership with National Wild Turkey Federation.
More than 70 habitat-enhancement projects impacting more than 2,600 acres, mostly on state game lands and state forests, are taking place in 2016 through a nearly $150,000 allocation by Pennsylvania National Wild Turkey Federation State Chapter Habitat Committee.
The projects are the result of proposals that more than 60 local chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) submitted to the committee. All of the projects are being conducted on parcels open to public hunting, and the projects will impact land ranging from one to 546 acres.
NWTF Regional Biologist Mitch Blake said general food-plot maintenance accounts for 49 percent of the project proposals, impacting 956 acres.
“While projects related to prescribed fire account for just 7 percent of the total projects, they will improve more than 1,100 acres,” Blake said.
Game Commission Habitat Division Chief Ben Jones said that prescribed burning improves habitat for many game species, not just wild turkeys. Prescribed burning invigorates plant growth, increases berry production, and has been shown to increase available deer browse by up to 400 percent.
“The Game Commission plans to improve nearly 10,000 acres of habitat through prescribed burning in 2016,” Jones said.
Other habitat improvement projects focus on removing exotic and invasive plant species and restoring native species, planting of trees and shrubs beneficial to wildlife and timber-stand improvements.
In addition to the habitat projects, the committee allocated $25,000 for future land acquisition, possibly adding acreage to the state game lands system.
Game Commission turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena said, “These projects are yet another example of the PANWTF’s commitment to the wild turkey resource and the great partnership the local chapters have with the state agencies.”
To date, the PANWTF has spent more than $6 million in Pennsylvania for habitat enhancement and a variety of other hunter-related activities.