OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is midway through its $2 million four-year study on wild turkeys in the state. Researchers said there is a decline in turkey populations.

“They’re a cool bird,” said Micah Holmes with the ODWC.

The State Wildlife Department, Oklahoma State University, US Fish and Wildlife, and several other organizations OSU Extension, the U.S. is working to determine why the wild turkey population is declining, not just in the state but across the country.

“The overall population numbers are not as strong, they’re not what they were, ten years ago,” said Holmes. “It wasn’t that long ago 60s, 70s, 80s, where we really didn’t have turkeys in the state.”

Oklahoma Turkey Numbers over the years
Source: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Holmes said wild turkeys can be found in every county, even suburban areas.

Current Wild Turkey Map of Oklahoma

For answers, scientists are zoning in on nests in Southwest and Southwest Oklahoma.

“We have a transmitter on the hen, so we know when she starts to nest, and we can go in there and see how many nests she laid and if those eggs hatched or not,” said Holmes.

Researchers found many predators like to shop for dinner in those nests.

“Things like racoons, opossums, skunks,” said Holmes.

Holmes said wildlife officials manage one million acres of Oklahoma, which is only 2% of all the state’s land. That means the future of turkey habitats rests on private land owners.

The ODWC said private landowners need to keep an eye on their trees. Turkeys sleep up in the branches as long as it’s easy to get up and down.

“If you have a big cottonwood on your property make sure there are no trees underneath of it, especially cedar trees are very detrimental to them,” said Holmes.

Holmes said managing cedar trees can also help deer, quail, and cattle.

Researchers said other big factors in the decline include weather, changes in land use, and loss of genetic diversity.