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Wild Turkey Disease FAQs

Sometimes I hear people say that if there are too many turkeys they will become diseased and die off. What diseases are found in wild turkeys? Do diseases pose a threat to turkey populations?

A. Blackhead disease - This disease, also known as histomoniasis, is caused by a protozoan parasite. Blackhead is a disease commonly seen in domestic fowl (chickens) but the infection is severe in wild turkeys. The disease affects the liver. Blackhead occurs in wild turkey populations from time to time, but it is not generally a limiting factor for turkey populations.

B. Avian pox - A viral disease that affects all gallinaceous birds but is not a limiting factor for wild turkeys. Symptoms are lethargy and the development of wartlike growths or lesions on the unfeathered parts of the bird such as the head, legs, feet, eyelids and margins of the beak. This disease is transmitted by mosquitoes so it is more prevalent in wet years. If the turkey's respiratory system is not infected, it will recover from the disease.

C. Mycoplasmosis - This is another poultry disease that has been documented very rarely in wild turkeys. There are three forms of the disease and none of them are seen with any degree of regularity in wild turkeys.

D. West Nile virus - Turkeys have been known to contract West Nile Virus, but they are not a carrier, and, therefore, infected turkeys do not pose human health risk.