by Ben Sobieck, D&DH online editor
Would a high number of wild turkeys drive down deer populations? Three factors might
make folks believe this is true.
First, deer and turkeys eat many of the same food types, such as mast. This makes
them natural competitors.
Second, turkeys can fly to food sources. They are at least as mobile as deer.
Last, turkeys travel in flocks. A large flock may leave nothing for deer at a food
Given this, a hunter may think more turkeys equal fewer deer. That’s what some in
Maine have concluded. For years, the deer herd declined while turkey numbers boomed.
However, a recent
article in the Portland Press Herald disputes this conclusion. Correlation
does not equal causation, writes Bob Humphrey.
Circumstantial evidence alone is insufficient for assigning cause and
effect. From 1952 to 1976, when the American League won the World Series, the next
president elected was a Republican. If the National League won, the election went
to the Democrat.
About five years ago, I asked Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist
Keel Kemper about the issue.
“If turkeys were negatively impacting deer, as alleged, diet quality for deer would
be substantially reduced. A reduction in diet quality would naturally lead to a reduction
in deer weights and deer density on the landscape,” was his response. He added, “There
are no indications that diet quality for deer has been reduced. We examine thousands
of deer each year and this empirical data has consistently shown no overall reduction
in weight or density of deer at the statewide level.”
Traditional factors continue to offer challenges to deer populations.
Numbers have gone down, but that’s more a result of severe winters, larger predator
populations and generous any-deer permit allotments.
That’s just Maine, though. What about the rest of the country? Turkey & Turkey
Hunting Editor Brian Lovett has hunted just about everywhere there are turkeys.
“Turkeys have absolutely zero effect on deer numbers,” Lovett said. “Nothing would
out-compete a whitetail for limited food resources.
“Further, although deer and turkeys share some food preferences — waste grain and
hard mast — a turkey will pretty much eat anything it can fit in its mouth and throat.”
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
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