Something is after the Wild Turkey. Actually, almost everything is.
A combination of coyotes, hunters, loss of habitat, hawks, climate change and troubles in the nest is undermining the species that once competed for the title of national bird. In parts of the country, populations are down by half and the overall drop is about 15 percent.
“We have a problem,” said Michael Chamberlain, a University of Georgia wildlife expert who leads a 15-state consortium working to find a response. “A lot of things like to eat turkeys.”
For the past half century, the Wild Turkey was the poster bird for how to bring back a species approaching extinction. Starting in the 1970s, after decades of overhunting and habitat loss, hunters, environmentalists, wildlife managers and researchers joined forces in a campaign that pushed the nationwide population up to more than 7 million birds.
But today, the combination of accelerating development, warming temperatures and all those predators has started setting back that progress, particularly in southern states. “We thought maybe it was just a natural phenomenon, where the population had peaked,” said Chamberlain.. “But fast-forward to today, the populations are not doing as well.”