|NEW YORK - Wild turkeys are often blamed for
crop damage, but evidence shows that wild turkeys are innocent of most
"The reason wild turkeys get blamed for crop damage is because farmers
see them in the fields during the day," said Doug Little, National Wild
Turkey Federation regional biologist for New York. "However, research shows
that most damage occurs at night when turkeys are roosting."
Alfalfa snout beetle - Photo courtesy of the New York State Integrated Pest
In a recent article, Keith Waldron, New York State Integrated Pest
Management Program, suggests turkeys help farmers monitor fields for bug
infestations. The article refers to Extension Educator Mike Stanyard
discovering alfalfa snout beetles in the crop and stomach contents of wild
turkeys taken near an alfalfa field. Alfalfa snout beetles are found only
in Europe and portions of nine counties in northern New York and southern
"The alfalfa snout beetle is a leading cause for alfalfa to go out of
production in New York," Waldron said. "Turkeys were in the right place at
the right time feeding on the beetles and helped us figure out why alfalfa
wasn't doing very well in the area."
Turkeys often feed on insects in or near crop fields during the summer and
autumn. In fact, insects are the biggest source of protein for turkey
poults. However, since turkeys are active during the day many farmers
believe they are feeding on agricultural crops rather than insects even
though research shows differently.
Earlier studies conducted in Ohio and Wisconsin by wildlife agency
biologists show turkeys cause minimal crop damage. Over a four-year period,
Ohio researchers found only three of 26 damage incidents involved wild
turkeys even though turkeys were spotted near every field.
In Wisconsin, turkeys were blamed in 28 crop damage incidents, but
investigators confirmed turkeys involved in only five of these incidents.
According to Paul Curtis, Wildlife Damage Management Program Coordinator
for Cornell University, wild turkeys cause little economic damage.
"It's well documented that turkeys primarily feed on insects in agriculture
fields," Curtis said.
For more information about the NWTF, call 1-800-THE-NWTF