A coordinator for ODWC’s current research project looking at wild turkey population declines across Oklahoma presented a progress report at the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission’s regular October meeting Monday in Bartlesville.
Colter Chitwood, an assistant professor in the Oklahoma State University Department of Natural Resources Ecology and Management, shared some of the data collected after research over two nesting seasons in southeastern Oklahoma and over one nesting season in southwestern Oklahoma.
Wild turkey genetics, nesting success, and brood survival are among the research topics in the 4.5-year, $2 million study launched in 2022 by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and partnering with National Wild Turkey Federation, Turkeys For Tomorrow, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Cherokee Nation, Choctaw Nation, and private landowners.
Preliminary data (from southwest/southeast study areas) at nest sites studied suggest hen mortality due to predators was 60/80 percent; nest success was 9/22 percent; predator-related nest loss was 13/77 percent; and poult survival was 14/0 percent.
The genetics part of the research has collected about 300 tissue samples from 62 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, along with several provided from Texas and New Mexico to serve as reference samples.
At the project’s outset, researchers said leading hypotheses to explain wild turkey declines were predation, weather, land use changes, and loss of genetic diversity.
Objectives are to provide ODWC with data to better manage wild turkey populations; provide recommendations to private landowners, land managers, and hunters regarding wild turkey management; and aid in understanding regional declines in wild turkey populations.
Also, Commissioners applauded 19 Locust Grove students for taking national championships at National Archery in the Schools competitions this past year. The middle school team from Locust Grove was the 2023 Oklahoma Grand State runner up in NASP, 2023 NASP national champion, and national runner-up in NASP I.B.O. Challenge. The high school team from Locust Grover was the 2023 Oklahoma NASP Grand State first-place team.
In other business, Commissioners:
- Heard from Regional Supervisor Jeff Pennington about activities and resources in the Central Region of ODWC’s Wildlife Division, including the upcoming ribbon-cutting to open a new shooting range at Kaw Wildlife Management Area at 1 p.m. Oct. 11.
- Heard a report from Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Foundation Executive Director Rick Grundman on OWCF’s annual Call of the Wild Gala and Wildlife Conservation Hall of Fame induction of Sean Trauschke, chairman, president and CEO of OGE Energy Corp., held Sept. 29 in Oklahoma City.
- ODWC’s Communication and Education Chief Nels Rodefeld accepted a Sportfish Restoration Outstanding Project Award from the American Fisheries Society, presented by Lynn Quattro, Assistant Chief of Freshwater Fisheries at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. It recognizes the division’s 2021 “Operation Retention” campaign in 2021, urging anglers to keep on fishing because “The Outdoors Is Always Open.”
- Recognized Assistant Director Wade Free for 40 years of service, and Wildlife Division Assistant Chief Russ Horton for 35 years of service.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.
The next scheduled Wildlife Commission meeting is set for Nov. 6, 2023, at the John D. Groendyke Wildlife Conservation Building, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City.