Turkeys in the Sunshine State

Turkeys in the Sunshine State

Florida is home to 2 subspecies of the wild turkey, the Eastern and the Osceola.

One might think turkeys in Florida live at the beach. However, Turkeys  prefer forested habitats such as hardwoods, pines, and cypress swamps. Their diet, depending on time of year and habitat, consists of seeds, nuts, fruits, and insects. The breeding season in Florida occurs in the spring, mid-March to April. Males (toms) perform courtship displays by puffing their feathers and gobbling to attract females (hens). 

The eastern turkey is the most common subspecies in the United States. They are found throughout the northern and central regions of the country, and throughout the state of Florida. Eastern turkeys are known for their dark iridescent feathers and their distinctive beard handing from their chest. 

The Osceola, known as the Florida turkey, is a sub species of the wild turkey but is only found in south Florida. They have slightly darker plumage than the Eastern wild turkey and are known for their longer legs and shorter, more rounded wings.

Image of two female (hen) Eastern wild turkeys and one offspring (poult) in the florida woods. Credit: Madelyn Grant

Both subspecies are popular among hunters during the spring hunting season. However, because Osceola’s are only found in Florida, the species is highly sought after among  hunters who want to add to their trophy collections, typically to complete the “grand slam.” The Grand Slam is the most popular of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recognized turkey slams , it consist of harvesting and registering the 4 most common species of turkey Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande ad Merriam. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) oversees turkey management in Florida. They ensure healthy and sustainable populations while also providing recreational opportunities based on research and monitoring by doing surveys to estimate population, and studies on turkey behavior, habitat use, and survival. The FWC also provides outreach and education to a variety of hunters ranging from the public and private sector. These topics include habitat management and conservation efforts, as well as predator control, and food plot management.

It is important for hunters to make informed decisions and engage in responsible hunting practices. 

Helpful links to learn more:

NISAW: Wild Hogs, an invasive species to Escambia County

NISAW: Wild Hogs, an invasive species to Escambia County

Wild hogs, also known as feral pigs, are a common group known throughout Florida, including Escambia County. Brought in by early settlers, these beasts have become an invasive species that cause serious damage to whatever environment they enter. In Escambia County they are found in various habitats which include forests, swamps, and agricultural areas.

These creatures are omnivorous and feed on essentially anything they can find. They uproot and feed on plants, roots, and insects, as well as prey on nests, eggs, and the young of ground nesting birds, small mammals, and reptiles. This, in turn, damages the land and continues to create competition for native wildlife.

Wild hog populations can rise quickly with sows able to produce multiple litters of piglets in a year.

To seek control of the wild hog population, hunting is allowed in Escambia County with a valid license. However, this alone is not enough to manage the ever-growing population. Therefore, other control measures such as trapping may be necessary.

Wild hogs are known to be carriers of many diseases which can be transmitted to livestock, other animals, and even humans. It is important that anyone who attempts to hunt or trap wild hogs take every precaution.

As they are a significant issue that can cause economic and ecological damage, it is important to take action to manage their populations, and to minimize the impact they make on the local environment and agriculture.

In this image, feral hogs have rooted up around this bottom and have caused a significant amount of damage.
Credit: Madelyn Grant

Here are some helpful links to learn more about Feral Pigs: