We have recently experienced an increase in the wild hog population at my favorite local turkey hunting spot, and it seems that the turkey population has decreased in inverse proportion to the increase in hogs. I contend that since hogs eat much the same food as turkeys — but in voracious and plant-killing amounts — not to mention the possibility of nest predation, that hogs are affecting the turkey numbers. What is the current thinking on this issue? — Chuck
We asked well-known turkey biologist Lovett Williams to address this question. Here's his response:
"I’ve worked with wild turkeys for many years in Florida and have examined more than 300 turkey nests in wild hog country, but I’ve never seen evidence of a hog destroying a turkey nest. No doubt, a hog will eat a turkey egg if it finds one, but I don’t think hogs are serious nest predators, as is sometimes claimed.
"Do hogs eat some of the same foods as turkeys? Hogs like acorns as much as turkeys do, but when it comes to serious hogging of turkey foods, you can relax — the turkey has no serious competition. Deer, mice, jays, crows, squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers and large blackbirds eat as many acorns as feral hogs do. More important, turkeys can thrive on hundreds of food items that hogs and other acorn eaters don’t eat.
"Some of the best turkey populations in the southern United States coincide with the densest feral hog populations, with no evidence of serious competition. Turkeys even benefit from wild hog rooting by following close behind hogs and finding foods the pigs uncovered but missed.
"There are good reasons to exclude or eradicate free-ranging hogs at some places and control their numbers almost everywhere, but turkey nest predation and competition for food are not among them."