Eight sites in five counties in Minnesota were stocked with wild turkeys last winter in a combined effort of the DNR and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Crews released 135 turkeys. Since 1976 about 4,200 turkeys have been trapped in southeastern Minnesota and released in 60 counties across the state.
Food plots are the key to turkey survival in new locations. The DNR and the NWTF plan to establish a new food plot on an 75-acre site near Fort Ripley, where birds have been released in the past. By planting berry-producing shrubs and corn on five to six acres of land the local turkeys will have a much better chance of survival, said Gary Drotts, DNR area wildlife manager.
The site chosen for the food plot is currently a gravel pit owned by Anderson Brothers Construction of Brainerd. The food plot in the pit near Fort Ripley will be maintained on a year-to-year basis.
"We're not done extracting from this pit," said Terry Curtis, director of business development for Anderson Brothers. "That could take several years. But in the meantime if there are other compatible uses we think that's a good use of the land. We've taken a different approach to what we do with our properties. The days of extracting the gravel and abandoning the sites with no regard to the environment are over. Gravel pits must be managed and restored to be compatible to the habitat and the natural environment."
In another collaborative effort, the Crow Wing County Land Department will assist the DNR in managing oak trees in the Sebie Lake County Forest -- another effort intended to benefit wild turkeys in the area.
Turkeys were released this year in Wadena, Benton, Mille Lacs, Kanabec and Pine counties. Birds released in the latter three counties have become part of an ongoing St. Cloud State University radio-telemetry study aimed at learning if agricultural crops, primarily corn, is critical to winter survival. Wild turkeys live in most of southern Minnesota and as far north as Mahnomen County in northwestern Minnesota. Each of the 189 releases made since 1976 has resulted in the establishment of at least a small population of birds, the DNR said, and survival rates have been good.
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