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Wild turkeys continue to thrive in Utah’s wilderness



By Sun Advocate

Wild turkeys roam Utah’s wilderness area. Sights like this are becoming more and more common in southeastern Utah as the state’s wild turkey restoration effort continues. This flock of Merriam’s gobblers was observed in San Juan County and similar flocks can be spotted throughout Carbon and Emery counties.

Dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of the hunting tradition is the mission statement of the National Wild Turkey Federation. However, the foundation is that and so much more.
When the federation was first founded in 1973, there were only 1.5 million wild turkeys across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Today, it is estimated there are more than 5.6 million wild turkeys.
Utah’s wild turkey restoration effort continues to be the most aggressive in the nation. Since the winter of 1999, over 4,000 wild turkeys have been relocated to suitable habitat areas throughout the state. As a result, hunting opportunity is steadily increasing.
However, this program will not be completed until over 200,000 wild turkeys roam the cottonwood river bottoms, pinyon and junipers and the Ponderosa pine forests of the state.
Whether a hunter or just simply an outdoor enthusiast, the time to view wild turkeys in Utah has never been better.
At the forefront of this dramatic return in Utah has been the federation’s volunteers who work side-by-side with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and other conservation organizations. Also, private contributions from public and corporate sponsors has allowed the federation to work on the turkeys return to the U.S., which is considered by many to be one of the biggest conservation success stories of the 20th century.
Now, with the most restoration efforts completed in the east, all eyes have shifted to the west where the wild turkey continues to redefine it’s own idea of suitable habitat.
While the release of a wild turkey into western habitat remains one of the federation’s most enduring symbols, it is just one brick in a foundation of good works that are impacting people’s lives and the environment in many positive ways.
The money which is raised for local turkey projects stays local. The funds are used to help fund transplants, research projects, habitat acquisition and improvement, education and the equipment needed to successfully accomplish these tasks.
Through the federation’s regional habitat programs, the volunteers have helped improve hundreds of thousands of acres by planting trees, crops, winter food sources and grasses that provide food and shelter for not only the wild turkey, but many other species of wildlife as well.
Also improved in many areas, particularly the arid west, has been water quality. Through the turkey federation’s guzzlers for gobblers program, volunteers and partners alike have helped implement permanent water solutions for wildlife of the region.
Projects occurring in southeastern Utah include a San Rafael Desert guzzler, Knolls Ranch habitat improvement and access, and numerous other projects on the LaSal Mountains, Blue Mountains and Book Cliff areas. Additional projects are also planned for 2003.
The federation intends to conduct several projects this coming year involving both Carbon County youth and adults.
One such project which is expected to take place this year include the adopt-a-flock program which allows junior and senior high school students in the county to participate in wild turkey restoration.
In conjunction with this program, it is expected that turkey releases will be performed at Nine Mile Canyon, the Book Cliffs, Price River and possibly the Henry Mountains.
As wild turkey federation members and DWR officials continue to introduce the bird to areas throughout southeastern Utah, the wildlife agency encourages residents to become actively involved in the process. Carbon County residents can do this by either supporting the foundation directly or by taking the opportunity to enjoy the viewing of these wild birds.

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