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Grassy, forested habitat or shrub habitat with grass or agriculture nearby.

Lean white meat breast, and dark meat legs. Similar taste to farm-raised turkey.

The population continues to grow. Found in certain Idaho regions.

Valid Idaho hunting license, turkey tag.


Wild turkeys are habitat generalists adaptable to a variety of habitats and environments. Wild turkey habitat typically includes a large variety of habitat types, plant species, and successional stages, within their home range. Home range size varies by season and habitat quality. Climatic and weather conditions such as snow depth and duration also influence turkey home range seasonally Diverse habitats with a range of habitat conditions within a home range provides for varying seasonal requirements, and provides a diversity of food sources that are less susceptible to failure during years of insufficient food production. Both Merriam’s and Rio Grande subspecies of wild turkeys were introduced to Idaho and have slight differences in habitat preferences. Habitat preferences for each subspecies won’t be described separately. Habitat preferences described in the following are for Wild turkey in general and not sub-species specific, unless otherwise noted. Wild turkey habitat use varies considerably seasonally, especially as food availability shifts. Habitats utilized by Wild turkey in Idaho home ranges generally fall into two categories: forested and non-forested habitats.



Forest habitats utilized by turkeys in Idaho are generally dry with bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, and pinegrass as dominate native grasses. A diverse understory forb component with a range of species including common yarrow, meadow rue, and, heartleaf arnica. Low shrub and mid story canopies composed of common snowberry, ninebark, rose shrubs and dominated by Rocky mountain maple, serviceberry, and ocean-spray. Dry forested habitats are typically dominated by conifer species to include ponderosa pine, grand fir, and Douglas-fir.



Non-forested Turkey habitats in Idaho are dominated by mountain shrubs, grasslands, and agricultural lands. Mountain shrub habitats are typically characterized by ninebark, chokecherry, bittercherry and hawthorn in mesic areas, and big sagebrush. Non-native grass species include cheatgrass, medusahead, ventenata, and Kentucky and bulbous bluegrasses.

Riparian areas in minor drainages near or within non-forested habitats are typically dominated by cottonwood, willow, and alder. Anthropogenic habitats such as crop fields, livestock feedlots, and disturbed areas are also utilized by turkeys. Habitat with a noxious weed component are found throughout the range of suitable habitats. Disturbed habitat with areas of heavy disturbance where native perennial vegetation has been converted to annual grasses and non-native species will also be utilized by Wild turkey.  Commonly found noxious weeds include Scotch and Canada thistles, leafy spurge, and jointed goatgrass. Although not a noxious weed, non-native cheatgrass is found extensively throughout the state. Common riparian noxious weeds include, Canada thistle, lead plant and tamarisk.

Although wild turkeys are typically considered habitat generalists, there are three periods with distinct habitat needs: nesting, brood rearing/summer, and fall/winter.



Forested habitats have been identified as important for nest site selection for Merriam’s. Non-forested habitats such as grassland/clearings and shrub habitats have been identified as nesting habitat for Merriam’s turkey. Both forested and non-forested habitat types are utilized for nesting by turkey hens. Microhabitat characteristics identified as important for turkey nest site selection and nest success include overstory canopy closure, stem density, height of woody vegetation, percent visual obstruction <1.0 m in height, percent ground cover by shrubs, percent total ground cover, percent dead woody debris, and percent slope. Nest site locations are typically characterized by undergrowth that provides screening cover or visual obstruction for the nest and the hen but still allows for the detection of. Nest sites typically have a higher percentage of shrub cover than non-nest sites, but the presence of dead or downed woody debris such as logging slash has also been identified as important for screening cover for nesting turkeys. Nests are often located next to downed debris, tree, or shrub. In an Idaho study, found 90% of study nests were < 2 meters from an overstory tree in Idaho. Percent canopy cover and concealment are also important in nest site selection and possibly in nesting success. Previous studies have observed approximately 50% canopy coverage at turkey nest sites in forested habitats found in Southwestern Idaho that lateral concealment (percent visual obstruction <1.0 m) was greater at mountain shrub nest sites than at forested nest sites, presumably offsetting for the reduced availability of canopy cover in non-forested habitat nest sites.



Quality brood-rearing habitat has been described as areas with abundant insects, high herbaceous ground cover[S1]  and in close proximity to escape cover Brood-rearing habitat is an important factor affecting productivity. Poults have high protein demands and meet these demands by consuming insects. Diverse herbaceous vegetation provides abundant insect sources and is an important component of forest understory and grassland habitats utilized for brood rearing. Herbaceous ground cover heights ranging 20-30 cm appear to be the range selected by turkey broods. This appears to be optimal for providing visual concealment for young while allowing hens to observe and detect predators. Overstory trees are important for escape and thermal cover for poults, and are important to have adjacent to foraging areas. Biologists reported that 97% of brood locations in Idaho, regardless of cover type, contained at least 1 overstory tree.



Critical components of wild turkey winter habitat are food resources and roosting cover.  Habitat use by wild turkeys changes from open non-forested areas to forested areas as fall shifts to winter  documented Merriam’s turkeys in south-central Washington preferred conifers with high amounts of canopy cover for roosting sites. Ponderosa pine is an important component of roosting habitat for Merriam’s wild turkeys in southwestern Idaho. Biologists found ponderosa pine habitat comprised approximately 30% of the available roosting habitat, while it accounted for >71% of all roost sites. Additionally, 90% of the roost trees surveyed were ponderosa pine, regardless of the surrounding forest type. Douglas-fir has served as substitutes for roosting sites in areas where ponderosa pine was limited.

Canopy coverage of approximately 50-60% is reported to be important in roost site selection found roost sites with higher canopy coverage (>60%) were used in winter months. Within narrow drainages turkeys appear to prefer roost trees situated in areas that are reasonably flat, or with fly down areas that are relatively open. Turkeys avoid using roost trees in riparian areas where the canyon walls are steep. Turkeys consistently occupy drainages where the riparian corridors are continuous from the forest at high elevation to winter habitat at lower elevation. Turkeys appear
to prefer these continuous riparian corridors for travel lanes Most drainages that are not contiguous riparian to forest habitat have few or no turkeys during most years. Wintering turkeys feed on both agricultural and native food sources. The majority of known wintering sites for Idaho Wild turkeys occur on private lands associated with riparian habitat and livestock operations or historic supplemental feeding sites. Turkeys often winter along the Idaho drainages of the Snake, Boise, Payette, and Weiser rivers in close association with riparian areas and livestock operations on private lands. Turkey roost habitat can be limited where the riparian corridors tend to be narrow, with steep slopes adjoining the streams. Turkeys make use of various sources of free water, including lakes, streams, ponds, seeps[S3] , springs, and livestock tanks.



Idaho’s wild turkey populations use diverse natural and anthropogenic habitats ranging from coniferous forests and shrub-steppe rangelands to row crop fields and livestock feedlots. Successful turkey populations have access to diverse habitats with suitable roost sites, adequate and secure nesting areas, brood rearing areas, and winter food such as produced by mast-bearing shrubs and trees or agricultural associated sources. Specific habitat improvement projects having the most beneficial impact on turkey populations will depend on local limiting factors. Habitat management is an important component to sustain wild turkey populations long-term. Long-term trends of Wild turkey populations are related to the quality and quantity of available habitat. Short-term or annual population densities and abundances fluctuate in response to weather conditions during the critical times related to nesting, brood-rearing and/or winter periods. Population densities remain relatively stable long-term unless habitat changes occur. Idaho’s geographic diversity and habitat variation buffer wildlife populations from short-term changes or reductions in local turkey population numbers due to changes in weather conditions at relatively small scales.


Turkeys and Private land/Agriculture

A significant amount of private land supports wild turkey populations in Idaho, especially during winter. As populations fluctuate both in the short and long-term private land will have a significant role in the management of turkey populations in Idaho. Managing or providing habitat for turkeys on private land will continue to be important as Idaho grows in population and habitat becomes more fragmented, urbanized, or is converted to undesirable habitat. A multispecies and diverse habitat focus on habitat improvement in relation to management of Wild turkey in Idaho would not only benefit turkey population but also other game and non-game species and would be the most economical.). With the successful introduction of Wild turkey in Idaho being very recent there is limited information on turkey habitat and use in Idaho

Turkeys utilize both native and agricultural resources depending on availability. Agricultural practices can help support turkey populations by providing food resources and additional habitat to support nesting, brood rearing types, and other critical seasonal habitat needs. Grain or hay fields, undeveloped field edges and fence rows, pasturelands, irrigation ditch banks, and crop stubble can provide additional food and cover resources when native sources are lacking. While a benefit to turkey populations, use of agricultural resources can cause challenges when turkeys negatively impact agricultural operations. Turkey nuisance complaints numbers. 

Turkey Distribution
Turkey Distribution