Habitat Use and Demography of a Wild Turkey Population Subjected to Human-induced Flooding

From 1986 to 1988, we studied the demography and habitat use of an eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) population subjected to humaninduced flooding along the Roanoke River, North Carolina. A six-month flood from 22 December 1986 to 22 June 1987 resulted in significant shifts in habitat use. Female home ranges during flooding were significantly larger than those recorded during non-flood periods. During non-flood periods, females used bottomland hardwoods more than other available habitats. Habitat use during flooding reflected availability instead of overall resource preference with females moving from bottomland hardwood to upland hardwood hillside to alluvial first ridge habitats as availability changed. Flooding inundated 79% of all nesting habitats used in nonflood periods. No reproduction occurred among radio-transmittered hens during 1987. Hen:poult ratios were 0.5, 6.6, and 0.2 in 1986, 1987, and 1988, respectively. Although some reproduction occurred among non-transmittered turkeys during the flood period, results suggest that flooding significantly reduced turkey recruitment and forced turkeys to concentrate in isolated locations where they were more vulnerable to increased legal and illegal harvest. Management recommendations include negotiation of changes in flow regimes, management of the Roanoke River Basin under suboptimal flow regimes, and better regulation of hunting seasons.

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