Not Well Adapted
3:02 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Wild Turkeys Face Difficulty Finding Food in Severe Winter

Many wild turkeys may be struggling to survive the harsh winter in northern Wisconsin.

Wild turkeys have a hard time finding food in deep snow.
Wild turkeys have a hard time finding food in deep snow.
Credit Robert Engbert

Bird expert Laura Erickson says in an average winter, turkeys are protected by their fat reserves.  But a severe winter like this one is another matter. 

“The problem is that they need a lot of food.  And with the deep snows we’ve been having, it’s virtually impossible for them to find the acorns or other food items that they would normally get on the ground.”   

She says turkeys’ body temperatures go down at night when they sleep, and if the birds lose too much weight they won’t be able to wake up again. 

Erickson explains that turkeys are not well adapted to harsh winter conditions, as they were reintroduced to Wisconsin from warmer places. 

“And exacerbating that, we’ve had a string of milder winters that mean that virtually every turkey living in Wisconsin right now has never experienced this kind of situation.” 

Erickson advises feeding your neighborhood turkeys with sunflower seed or corn specifically from a feed store.  But once the snow starts to melt, she says it’s important to rake up leftover corn so it does not develop toxins in the wet weather.