As populations of wild turkeys have increased, the number of complaints about crop damage has also increased. However, a literature review in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Integrated Pest Management finds that these claims are mostly exaggerated.
The review, titled “Real and Perceived Damage by Wild Turkeys: A Literature Review,” shows that although wild turkeys can cause damage to crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, most of the damage is usually minor or caused by other wildlife, such as white-tailed deer or raccoons.
The authors found that wild turkeys do occasionally damage specialty crops, turfgrass or ornamental flowers that may have higher value than common agricultural crops, but because of the small size of many specialty operations, simple management techniques can be used to reduce damage.
The authors also investigated the effects wild turkeys may have on other species of wildlife, but found no evidence of widespread negative effects.
While wild turkeys have been observed consuming unusual food items, including snakes, salamanders, lizards, bluegill, crayfish and tadpoles, such events were rarely documented.
Wild turkeys have also been implicated in the decline of bobwhite quail and ring-necked pheasants, but the authors were unable to find any scientific evidence to substantiate these claims.
To the contrary, some studies in the reviewed literature note that wild turkeys can benefit society, and landowners have indicated that wild turkeys benefit agricultural crops by eating insects and controlling weeds. In some cases, while wild turkeys may appear to be damaging crops, they are actually feeding on insects or waste grain.
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science.