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No Consensus on the Worst Predator for Wild Turkeys

Coyotes are among the biggest predators for wild turkeys, targeting everything from eggs in nests to adult birds they can capture.

The debate probably is similar to asking about which choke constriction is best or what kind of ammo knocks gobblers in the dirt. But it’s still fair to ask and kick around the coffee table with other hunters.

Here goes: What’s the biggest or worst predator for wild turkeys?

Yes, I realize that some states may not have what other states have. Massachusetts probably wouldn’t appreciate the fire ants we have in the Southeast. Folks in the Southeast don’t want wolves or lynx or badgers. Everything’s relative, in some way.

But generally speaking, predation on wild turkeys is something every hunter and wildlife agency manager has to think about. Along with threats from avian diseases, turkeys are just hounded and pounded upon virtually all year long. Hens have to deal with egg-robbers and then vulnerable poults in their care, for at least a couple of weeks until they can fly.

Must be a tough life! Here are my picks for the top turkey predators:

Coyotes

I don’t believe coyotes are the worst predator on turkeys but they are one of the worst, for sure. They are found throughout most of the country, even in urban areas where they adapt quickly, and are among the most opportunistic predators around. Coyotes will eat anything from berries and melons to mice and … turkeys, when they get a chance to capture one.

Hunting coyotes and bobcats along with an effective trapping program may give you a leg up on helping turkey populations thrive.

Bobcats

In the Southeast these may get my pick as the top predator for turkeys, although that’s just my own opinion. I think bobcats are stealthy enough — heck, they’re like giant house cats — to patiently wait and take down a gobbler or hen, not to mention poults. One place I hunted for several years had at least one if not two bobcats and few turkeys, and I think that was the primary reason for the lack of birds. One day while deer hunting, one of the bobcats came in behind me and I didn’t hear it until it was about 10 feet away. He was that close, quiet, stealthy, didn’t see me in my makeshift brush blind, and padded away. I think they and coyotes could be the deadly duo on turkeys.

Raccoons get their share of turkey eggs each spring. (Photo: David Menke/Wikipedia)

Raccoons and Opossums

Doggone egg-sucking varmints! With trapping and fur sales stagnant or declining (in some areas), we’ll go through cycles of raccoon and opossum population boons and busts. These crafty critters aren’t going to pass up the chance to snatch an egg or three from a nest if they can get it. And although opossums aren’t typically thought of as carnivores, I’ll bet if they found a young poult injured or within reach they’d probably take advantage of it.

Snakes

More egg-sucking critters! Yet another opportunistic feeder, snakes probably snatch a few eggs each spring when they come across a nest. Not much you can do about it. They may not be too big of a predator, as far as numbers, but I suspect they get their fair share.

Fire Ants

This evil scourge of ankles and bare feet in summer arrived in Mobile, Alabama, on a cargo ship sometime back 70 or more years ago. Maybe before then. In any case, they spread throughout the Southeast, now the Southwest, and up into the lower Midwest. Maybe elsewhere, too. Fire ants are nasty critters that can cause problems and likely get their fill of turkey poults each spring whenever possible. Maybe not a lot, but probably some. Plus, turkey hunters hate them.

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