Turkey baffles biologists as it turns 12: ‘She shouldn’t be alive’

A wild turkey recaptured in Pennsylvania sent shockwaves through the entire local wildlife community as they deduced the hen was at least four times older than the average wild bird, making it the oldest in the state of the East has ever recorded.

The discovery of the 12.5-year-old hen was made by Clearfield County biologists who were conducting a larger research program to study wild bird nesting and habitat patterns with the PA Game Commission.

In a Facebook post, the team noted that, in an attempt to put the bird’s age into perspective, “if a hen reaches its first birthday, it has an average life expectancy of 1-3 years longer.”

Mary Jo Casalena, turkey biologist for the team, noted in an interview with Mossy Oak that the bird, although apparently healthy for its age, should be recognized as an anomaly.

“To tell you the truth, that chicken shouldn’t be alive. She defies all of our longevity records that we’ve ever had in Pennsylvania,” she told the local outlet. mossy oak.

PA Game Commission game warden Chris Ivicic told Mossy Oak that when researchers first caught the senior bird in February, it took the team a little while to make the connection that he had scored 10 years earlier during an investigation. similar field study.

The team was able to put two and two together after noting the band around its leg, which is part of a tracking system biologists use to assess the species’ population dynamics.

One of the team’s researchers, who Mossy Oak said was hired for the four-year study, told the outlet that he sent his team the ring number so they could trying to identify the bird they had recaptured.

“It was sheer luck that we caught this bird. It was just ordinary trapping,” Tony Musselman, the hired research assistant, told the outlet. “I would have told you it was a 3 or 4 year old hen She looked healthy, she looked great.

That’s when the PA Game Commission was able to look at their records and verify that they had indeed trapped this chicken before, in fact, only a mile from where they found it in 2022, and that in 2012, they had recorded his age as being at least 1.5 years old.

Now game warden Mr Ivicic, who was a wildlife conservation officer at the time, told Mossy Oak that when the team realized who exactly they had been reunited with during tracking that day of February, he felt as if he had been “reunited with a love lost ten years ago”.

Although this 12.5-year-old hen holds the Pennsylvania state record for the oldest wild turkey ever captured, the national record is still held by a male Massachusetts turkey that researchers placed at 15 years old at the time of his death.

The team that found the 12.5-year-old bird is conducting this large-scale research study through 2025 as they hope to better understand local hen populations, disease prevalence and movement dynamics.

“This will be the largest turkey project we’ve ever done, hoping to answer many questions about the current hen population dynamics,” Ms Casalena, the commission’s turkey biologist, said in a statement. A press release.

Local populations of wild turkeys have tended to decline in recent years, according to the PA Gaming Commission. In the early 2000s, the state estimated there were between 280,000 and 400,000 gobblers living in the wild.

The most recent data, from 2019, says that number has fallen to 212,170, with conservationists noting that habitat loss, disease, climate change-induced weather and hunting are all contributing factors.

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