ODNR Seeks Wildlife Sightings

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife is calling on the public to report sightings of wild turkeys and ruffed grouse this summer for its annual population surveys. The initiative, open to all, encourages observations to be submitted via the Wildlife Reporting System at wildohio.gov or the HuntFish OH mobile app.

Wildlife biologists will use these reports, gathered in July and August, to estimate population statuses and reproductive success. Female turkeys and their young are particularly active during the summer, making this a crucial time for data collection. Observers are asked to report the number of gobblers, hens, and poults seen, as well as the number of adult and young ruffed grouse. Reports should include the date, county, and detailed observations.

The Division of Wildlife has been tracking summer observations of wild turkeys since 1962 and ruffed grouse since 1999. Similar surveys are conducted by other states throughout the wild turkey’s range, helping predict future population changes, estimate brood success, and guide management decisions.

Recent surveys have shown above-average nest productivity for wild turkeys. The statewide average poults per hen in 2023 was 2.8, compared to 3.0 in 2022 and 3.1 in 2021. The long-term average is 2.7 poults per hen. Regional variations in 2023 showed 3.0 poults per hen in northeast and northwest Ohio, 2.8 in southeast Ohio, and 2.4 in central and southwest Ohio.

The Division of Wildlife has also conducted research on wild turkeys and ruffed grouse in recent years. Acoustic recording units were used in 2023 and 2024 to monitor turkey gobbling and grouse drumming, providing data on population size and breeding activity. Additionally, over 100 wild turkey hens were tracked over the past two springs to study nest timing and survival.

Ohio’s turkey populations are typically strongest in the eastern and southern counties, influenced by habitat availability, weather conditions, and predators. Ongoing research aims to further understand these factors.

Ruffed grouse, medium-sized game birds that resemble chickens, inhabit Ohio’s heavily forested regions. They are most numerous in young, regenerating forests, particularly those less than 20 years old. However, habitat loss and susceptibility to West Nile Virus have driven population declines since the 1980s and early 2000s, respectively.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.