State asks Vermonters to help count turkeys - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

State asks Vermonters to help count turkeys

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By anyone's guess there are roughly 40,000-70,000 wild turkeys in Vermont. And for the seventh year in a row, the state is asking the public to help count the flock.

"It's a web-based survey. And if you are out driving around or sitting at your kitchen table and you happen to see some turkeys out there, you can report those turkeys online. All of that info comes back to us to evaluate the status of the turkey population and how well they reproduced this year," said Amy Alfieri, a turkey biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

Ron Lafreniere is a turkey hunter and past president of the Vermont chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. He says the sport is growing in popularity.

"Well, turkey hunting is kind of a hidden secret in Vermont. We are probably not known as a destination place, but every year there are more and more hunters coming from out of state because we do have one of the best populations in New England," Lafreniere said.

There are three turkey seasons: one in the fall, one in the spring and a youth hunting season. This spring, more than 5,000 wild turkeys were taken by hunters. That is down from last year's record spring hunt where more than 6,300 birds were taken.

"This year they had a 60 percent success rate for the youth, this year in 2014. So, that is just a phenomenal number and I'm hoping that really gets them interested in continuing to hunt turkeys throughout their life," Alfieri said.

The survey is just one tool Fish and Wildlife uses to count the turkey population. The staff also does surveys, and of course there is harvest information that comes in from across the state.

Weather plays an important role in the survival of chicks in the spring.

"It's not necessarily the cold winter, it is really the wet spring. And when the hens come off in normally late May or early June, if when they come off the nest and it's wet or get a lot of rain, a lot of the young ones will not survive," Lafreniere explained.

So far, trends suggest the turkey population is robust, and on the move, heading north.

"What we are seeing-- the turkeys, the population is becoming stronger in the Northeast Kingdom, so we are starting to see more hot spots up there, which is pretty great. I don't think we expected them to do so well throughout the state," Alfieri said.

The Vermont Turkey Brood Survey continues through the month of August, and Fish and Wildlife hope so called "citizen scientists" will log on to help out. Click here for more information.

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