Wild Turkeys have taken to Utah.

Wild Turkeys have taken to Utah.

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Wild turkeys have taken to Utah.

Since an effort to bolster the birds' population began nearly 20 years ago, Utah has jumped from having hardly any wild turkeys to having the second most in the country, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The NWTF has released, with the Utah Division of Wildlife and other partners, more than 5,600 wild turkeys in Utah.

The arid landscape offers plenty of food, cover and brood habitat.

To combat the drought, the NWTF has started its Guzzlers for Gobblers program, which places water tanks, called guzzlers, throughout the Western states. In the past four years the NWTF National Projects fund has paid for 16 guzzler projects in Utah, improving 80,000 acres of land for wild turkeys and other species of wildlife.

"We are committed to improving wild turkey habitat and populations in Utah and throughout the western United States," said NWTF chief executive officer Rob Keck.

The most recent conservation project in Utah is a study on the survival of the Rio Grande wild turkey in the dry pinyon and juniper habitat of Utah. The three-year study will determine how necessary guzzlers are for the survival of wild turkeys in Utah.

The National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, when there were an estimated 1.3 million wild turkeys and 1.5 million turkey hunters. Today there are an estimated 5.6 million wild turkeys and approximately 2.6 million turkey hunters.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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