Healthy grasslands are crucial to the survival of many different species of wildlife and many different types of invertebrates. For wild turkeys, healthy grasslands provide two crucial elements: forage and cover.
Forage comes in two main forms: Seed production and insects. Insects are a vital food source for turkey poults throughout the summer months because they are loaded with protein. Protein during this time of rapid growth in a turkey’s life helps to form the base for a healthy body structure.
Healthy grasslands are also important for providing concealment and cover when wild turkeys are most vulnerable. This is throughout the first few months of their lives. This is especially true for the first 10 days or so after they hatch because they are not yet able to roost up in a tree at night. The tall grass in a healthy, native grassland keeps poults concealed from predators above (hawks, falcons, eagles, etc.) and predators on the ground (bobcats, foxes, coyotes, etc.). Healthy grasslands can play a very large role in helping to boost wild turkey populations.
For the reasons mentioned above, the California State Chapter of the NWTF has made native grassland restoration projects a priority in our mission to Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. in this beautiful state.
How it started
Cañada de Los Osos Ecological Reserve (CDLOER) is a 5,800 acre property that is owned by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and is co-managed by the Friends of Cañada de Los Osos. Friends of Cañada de Los Osos host public hunting opportunities for apprentice hunters only (ages 17 and under). Hunters are drawn through a free, lottery-based system to hunt wild turkeys, black-tailed deer and wild pigs. They also host a few fishing days throughout the year that are open to all kids. To learn more about CDLOER please visit: www.wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Canada-de-los-Osos-ER.
CDLOER and NWTF partnered up in 2014 to help restore some of the grasslands located along Cañada de Los Osos Creek, down in the valley portion of the ranch. These grasslands had become heavily inundated with non-native invasive species. The biggest of these threats being the ultra-aggressive yellow starthistle (YST). YST provides little to no benefit to wildlife, tendsi to out-compete native species of grasses and forbs. This takeover can be harmful to our native wildlife.
Restoring grasslands for turkeys
Because of this, NWTF partnered up with CDFW and the Friends of Cañada de Los Osos to help bring these grasslands back. Local seed was purchased and drilled into the site by a no-till seed drill. After a couple seasons of tractor work and herbicide treatments, we couldn’t have asked for better success! Finally the grasslands were transformed back into native grasses. These grasslands stood 3-4 feet tall this spring and summer. With proper maintenance, these grasslands will be “poult producers” for many years to come.