Turkey populations can increase rapidly under optimal conditions, but turkey that exist on sub-optimal or poor habitat are more impacted by predators. These predators destroy both eggs and nests, although adult turkey can also be predated by bobcat, coyotes, or a host of other predators. Predator management can be a controversial issue in some circles, but wild turkey management is not dependent on removing nest predators. It may seem that these ground-nesting birds are very susceptible to raccoons, opossums, and foxes, but research has indicated that viable turkey populations can generally withstand predation in areas where adequate habitat exists.
However, prime turkey habitat is dwindling. This decline in turkey habitat is the result of human encroachment and habitat fragmentation. As a result, suitable turkey habitat is running thin, so the limiting factor on a turkey population in marginal habitat is predation. In addition, the trapping and hunting of furbearers, because of economic and social reasons, has declined drastically over the last 25 years and has led substantial increases in meso-mammal populations, such as raccoons, opossoms, and skunks. If you are serious about turkey management, controlling turkey predators is highly warranted.
Turkey predators can be controlled by a couple of methods, which includes trapping and shooting. Shooting, for the most part, is time consuming and can be effective at first, but soon fall short of predator control goals. Trapping, on the other hand, can be highly effective, especially prior to the turkey nesting season. Set traps can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The key is to pick good trap locations. Water sources, feeders, and food plots can be good places to start. Just make sure you place out your traps in such a manner as to not capture non-target species, such as turkey themselves!
In short, predators can be a limiting factor on turkey populations where low numbers of turkey exists. As a result, techniques to improve and manage turkey populations in these areas should include habitat management, turkey predator control, and no to limited wild turkey hunting.