February 22, 2022

Gould’s Turkey Could be the Next Conservation Success Story in New Mexico

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States Senior Coordinator

Why it Matters: With so much attention being paid to the multitudes the species and habitats that we are losing to urbanization, invasive species, climate change, disease and more, we need to celebrate the conservation wins, no matter how big or small. Once on the brink of state extirpation, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has proposed to remove the Gould’s Turkey from the state threatened and endangered list. Not only does this bode well for the future of the Gould’s Turkey in the state, but it also opens the potential for increased access and opportunity to sportsmen and women to pursue this iconic species. With the conclusion of the public comment period, the decision now lies with the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission on whether the Gould’s Turkey will be delisted or not.

The Gould’s Turkey was first documented in New Mexico in 1892, after which there were limited recorded sightings until the 1980s. Due to a lack of information on the subspecies and its limited habitat range, the Gould’s Turkey was listed as State Threatened in 1975. Shortly after, science-based population estimates of Gould’s Turkeys in the Peloncillo Mountains ranged from 12 to 75 birds in the 1980s and ’90s. As part of the April 2017 Recovery Plan, the stated objective was to “maintain a total population of at least 175 Gould’s Turkeys in the Peloncillo Mountains either through natural processes alone or in combination with periodic strategic augmentation.” Thanks to the dedicated work of the Department and in-state habitat restoration efforts, today, the Gould’s Turkey population has reached a minimum of 250 individuals, equating to a 333%-2,083% overall increase.

CSF submitted a comment letter to the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission in support of the proposal to delist the Gould’s Turkey. Given the documented success of NMDGE in its recovery, CSF looks forward to potential for increased access and opportunity for New Mexico’s sportsmen and women to pursue this iconic species. As the foremost experts on wildlife management within New Mexico, the NMDGF is more than capable of balancing an increase in regulated harvest with management objectives to conserve the species in perpetuity. Being that sportsmen and women fund 99% of the NMDGF’s budget, CSF applauds the NMDGF for putting the outdoor sporting community’s money to work, providing tangible outcomes in the successful recovery of yet another important species.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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