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Wild turkeys relocated from So. Dakota

VERNAL — The Division of Wildlife Resources relocated more than 100 Merriam's turkeys from South Dakota to eastern Utah on Jan. 17. The project is part of DWR efforts to increase Utah's turkey population.

Biologist Joe Christensen releases a wild turkey near Joes Valley.

DWR Biologist Joe Christensen releases a wild turkey near Joes Valley.

Photo by Brent Stettler

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks officials trapped the birds in western South Dakota. Then, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) partnered with the DWR to transport and release the birds.

Most of the birds were released in Avintaquin Canyon, Yellowstone Canyon and Bitter Creek in northeastern Utah. About 30 birds were also released near Joes Valley Reservoir in the central part of the state, the first turkey to be introduced in that area.

The turkeys come from an area with high elevations and cold temperatures, similar to Utah's conditions. Only healthy birds were moved, and DWR officials expect the birds to thrive.

For the next few months, SFW, the NWTF and DWR will supplement natural food resources with cracked corn. As the turkeys explore their new habitat, they will also find pine nuts, buds and acorns to feed on.

"I was delighted when I got the call that [the DWR] was going to get some birds," says Mike Pritchett, turkey specialist with SFW. "When they mentioned they could use some help with supplemental feeding, we were right there."

The DWR reintroduced wild turkey to the state in 1952. Since then, the population has grown to about 20,000 birds.

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks made a video showing how they captured and prepared the Merriam's turkeys for their journey to Utah.

South Dakota-Utah Turkey Transfer from Luke Meduna on Vimeo.

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