Despite the intensive efforts that saw turkey hunting opened throughout most of the East Texas region over the last 20 years, more recently numerous counties lost turkey hunting opportunities because of declining numbers. At the same time, feral hog populations have skyrocketed.
Is there a connection?
Of all threats, feral hogs are the most misunderstood. Their potential for impact is growing. Hogs have significant impact on their environment, and research suggests a negative effect on turkey nesting success.
Take for example, a study conducted in the Edwards Plateau (Texas Hill Country), which is Rio Grande turkey country. There, researchers used chicken eggs to simulate turkey nestings and found that hogs destroyed 28 percent of them.
On the other hand, some researchers, including V.G. Henry, dispute the hog’s effectiveness at nest predation. They argue that hogs are “haphazard nest predators” and are “not additive to nest predation, but only replaced other predators either driven off or preyed upon by feral hogs, especially snakes.”
Research conducted on other ground-nesting animals, including reptiles may shed some light on the potential for hogs to harm turkey nests. In Georgia, for example, 80 percent of sea turtle nests were lost on Ossabow Island from hog predation.
“There is no doubt that feral hogs have a negative impact on their environment,” said Rick Taylor, a retired feral hog specialist with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). “Research certainly suggests they can and do destroy the nests of turkeys and other ground nesting birds.”
According to TPWD, the earliest stocking attempts utilized pen-reared turkeys and later the Rio Grande subspecies trapped in the western half of Texas. Both methods failed to create a sustainable turkey population in east Texas.
“Beginning in the late 1970s, TPWD began releasing wild-trapped Eastern turkeys from neighboring states. By 2003, more than 7,000 Eastern turkeys had been stocked into east Texas utilizing a block stocking approach. This method called for stockings of 15-20 birds per site with five to ten sites scattered across a particular county. Although this method was successful in several areas of the state, most of the stocked birds disappeared without creating a sustainable population.”
Efforts to stock eastern strain birds were more successful especially in areas such as Red River County which has produced some world-class gobblers. There has been a renewed focus on turkey stocking recently and a renewed interest in looking at the factors that harm turkey numbers.
Researchers, wildlife managers and local government officials from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Utah State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service-National Wildlife Research Center, and Welder Wildlife Foundation have for the last couple of years been studying the ecology of bobcats in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The purpose of the study is to better understand how bobcats live with humans in highly urbanized landscapes.
“Bobcats have learned to thrive in urban areas and will always be a part of our urban wildlife community,” said Derek Broman, TPWD urban wildlife biologist in Dallas. “The goal of this research effort is to answer important questions about urban wildlife to help DFW area cities and counties improve communication to their residents about how wildlife and people can co-exist.”
Bobcats are the most common wildcat in North America. Not to be confused with the much larger mountain lion, bobcats typically weigh between 11 and 30 pounds and have a short tail, long legs, and large feet. Though reclusive and mostly active at night,” Broman said, “bobcats frequently leave cover to hunt before sundown and can be seen in a variety of habitats throughout Texas.
In recent years, bobcat sightings have increased within the Metroplex.
The study area includes approximately 49,000 acres bordered by SH 183 to the north, SH161 to the east, SH180 to the south and Interstate 820 to the west. The area includes parts of Fort Worth, Hurst, and Arlington.