Wild turkeys are more numerous than they have been in decades and in some regions, there are arguably more birds than ever throughout the United States. Some states like Louisiana for example are seeing a decline.
Of all potential turkey threats, feral hogs are the most misunderstood and their potential for impact is growing with populations nationwide estimated at more than six million. These non-indigenous omnivores have spread from the Deep South into 20 states with their most recent conquest being the Finger Lakes region of New York. Hogs have significant impacts on their environments and research suggests there is a negative effect on turkey nesting success.
Take for example a study conducted in Rio Grande turkey country, the Edwards Plateau of Central Texas. 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 debate the hog’s effectiveness at nest predation arguing that they are “haphazard nest predators” and that hogs are, “not additive to nest predation, but only replaced that which would have occurred by 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 due to hog predation.
“There is no doubt that feral hogs have a negative impact on their environment and research certainly suggests that they can and do destroy the nests of turkeys and other ground nesting birds,” said Rick Taylor, a retired feral hog specialist with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD).
Its interesting that states like Louisiana that have rising hog populations are experiencing turkey problems. This writer has a feeling we have just scratched the surface on the potential of hog impact on turkeys.
Chester Moore, Jr.