Wildlife agencies have seen a regional decline in wild turkeys, and that there are about 7 million of the birds left, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.
Encroaching development, chemical herbicide and natural predators could be factors in the population shift. Researchers told the newspaper that wildfires do not appear to be a leading cause in the decline.
“We don’t know exactly why,” said Richard Chamberlain, a professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at UGA.
“It has prompted turkey folks to kind of stand up and try to figure out not just what’s causing this, but how much further are we going to see the decline?,” Chamberlain added. “Is there a way to reverse it? Do we even need to reverse it?”
The wild turkey population dropped in the late 1800s and early 1900s, then rebounded in the second half of the 20th century as forests that were cut down in the 1900s grew back.
Researchers have caught and tagged more than 100 turkeys with radio transmitters in southwest Georgia. The transmitters track the birds’ movements — and to know where to find them when they’ve stopped moving.