AUGUSTA, Maine — Whether hunting them, eating them, imitating their call, or simply admiring their beauty, one thing is for sure, Mainers love their turkeys. 

Unfortunately, money and data shortages have made it extremely difficult to know how many turkeys are out there and are available to harvest.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (MDIFW) stated in their 2017 "Big Game Management" report, that "a number of wild turkey population monitoring techniques have been evaluated in the past. Unfortunately, many of these techniques were deemed unfeasible given personnel time and funding limitations."

This past winter, UMaine staff, local game wardens, and biologists trapped, banded, and dispersed 216 wild male turkeys throughout Maine.

Of those 216 turkeys, 41 had been harvested by the end of the spring season, which brings the total to around 19%.

Biologists applied that percentage to this year's 6,612 male turkeys registered by Maine hunters at tagging stations and came up with an estimated 35,000 males available for harvest during the 2019 hunting season. 

Kelsey Sullivan, a Maine wildlife biologist specializing in migratory and upland game birds, says the estimate "is still preliminary at this point as we work to incorporate other factors such as survival from time of capture to hunting season start."

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MDIFW only hopes to see that number get more accurate in the future so that populations can be regulated and Mainers can continue doing what they love -hunting turkeys.

"We are well on our way to having a better understanding of the number of wild turkeys on the Maine landscape [...] we plan to band turkeys again this coming winter, with the goal of increasing our banding sample and refine the population estimate," Sullivan said in a website blog post.

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