HARRISBURG, Pa. -- With Pennsylvania’s spring gobbler season to begin at the end of the month, state Game Commission biologists were outfitting turkeys captured for fitting with leg bands and GPS transmitters when a surprise discovery was made – the oldest living female turkey ever recorded in the state.
On one of the turkeys held in Clearfield County, Pa. for the fitting, biologists found a leg band from a previous capture dated March 3, 2012, according to Mary Jo Casalena, commission turkey biologist, who noted the bird was an adult when first captured making her 12.5 years old today.
It’s significant for a turkey to reach that age in the state wild, she said, because a hen reaching adulthood at her first birthday faces an average life expectancy of no more than three more years.
"To tell you the truth, this hen should not be alive," said Casalena. "She's defying all the longevity records we have in Pennsylvania."
The hen is among the more than 700 turkeys – 200 of them female – banded across the state for the "largest turkey project" ever conducted by the commission, said Casalena. Because she appeared healthy, the hen was fitted with a GPS transmitter that will allow for continued monitoring – a process being done on other turkeys in four of the state’s 24 management units, according to the biologist.
“It’s going to be the largest turkey project we’ve ever conducted, with the hope of answering many questions regarding current population dynamics,” she said.
Transmitters will be put on 100 hens total from the four study areas statewide – western, northeastern, central and southeastern Pennsylvania, according to Scott Foradora, a commissioner from the central district. He said the areas have different landscapes, turkey population densities, and spring hunter and harvest schedules.
“That gives us information on annual survival rates and annual spring harvest rates for our population model,” said Casalena.
She said the project also will examine disease prevalence in the birds, having taken various trials from the captured birds including blood and skin samples. She also said the population and movement portion of the Game Commission turkey project will explore how weather and landscape affect survival rates of turkeys.
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