Historically, wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) existed in significant numbers in Maine. By the early 1800’s wild turkeys in Maine were extirpated due to unrestricted hunting and intensive agricultural practices resulting in the reduction of forested land. Since 1880, many farms have been abandoned and much of Maine’s land has reverted back to forest greatly enhancing wild turkey reestablishment. Successful reintroduction efforts began in the 1970’s. Currently a population of over 40,000 birds can be found across all 16 counties in Maine. Due to the overwhelming success of wild Maine turkey repopulation efforts, wild turkeys were added to the MDIFW nuisance wildlife policy in 2002. Indeed, some members of Maine’s agricultural community are experiencing economic losses and other effects of an existing and expanding turkey population. In addition to crop damage, turkeys are susceptible to a number of infectious diseases and may be in close contact with hunters, agricultural workers, and other animals. The extent of agricultural habitat use, agricultural impact, population genetic structure, and pathogen and microbial diversity of Maine’s wild turkeys is unclear.
Our research plan involves four separate components for evaluating the interactions between wild turkeys and Maine agriculture: (1) an agricultural survey, (2) population genetic analysis of Maine turkeys across the state, (3) pathogen and microbiological screening of Maine turkeys across the state, & (4) tagging and GIS analysis of select turkeys.