Applying Integrated Pest Management to Wild Turkeys
Integrated Pest Management, also known as IPM, is an environmentally sound approach to pest control that was first developed in the 1970s. IPM is a strategy based on multiple control tactics to ensure that 1) pest populations are managed at acceptable levels, 2) risks to people, other non-target organisms, and the environment are minimized, and 3) pest control is practical and economical.
While it is best known for its applications to weeds and pest insects, IPM can also be used to control rodents, bats, and birds — even wild turkeys.
Last year, a literature review of crop damage caused by wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) was published in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management.
The results showed that although wild turkeys can cause some damage to agricultural crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay, most of the actual damage is minor or it is caused by other wildlife such as white-tailed deer or raccoons.
The authors did find that wild turkeys can occasionally damage specialty crops, turfgrass, and ornamental flowers. However, some studies in the reviewed literature indicated that wild turkeys can also benefit agricultural crops because they eat insects and control weeds. In some cases, wild turkeys may appear to be damaging crops, but they are actually feeding on insects or waste grain.
In order to reduce possible crop damage and protect wild turkey populations, the authors recommend using the following IPM techniques:
– Use wire and mesh fences to exclude turkeys from crop areas. Since wild turkeys prefer to walk rather than fly, fences interrupt their trails and normal movements.
– Use pyrotechnics to disperse wild turkeys as they are quite sensitive to light and sound. Propane cannons and shell crackers are common acoustic deterrents that are used to disperse wild turkeys in areas where damage is suspected.
– Remove food sources, such as bird feeders.
– Cut grass short to avoid production of seeds — another potential food source.
– Use bird spikes or netting around roost areas to minimize damage.
– Capture wild turkeys and relocate them.
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