Reproductive Effort and Success in a Declining Wild Turkey Population

We monitored reproductive effort and success of a wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) population on a public wildlife management area in Mississippi for 9 years using telemetry and other indices. Adult hens (N = 143) had a nesting rate of 72.7% (range 54-100) and was greater (P = 0.0001) than the nesting rate (26.7%) of juvenile hens (N = 15). Annual nest success of 104 nests of adult hens averaged 30.8% (range 0-62) and poult survival to >50 days was 22.7% for 27 broods (N = 203 poults). Clutch size averaged 9.1 (SE = 0.54) and 6.7 (SE = 1.1), and hatchability was 93% and 100%, for first and second clutches, respectively. During this period, turkey population estimates and indices (gobbler harvest, hen ancillary observations) declined 250%-350%. Low reproduction was due primarily to high predation of nests and poults and appeared to have caused the population decline. However, environmental factors (i.e., food, rainfall) appeared to significantly impact reproduction in some years. Reproduction was greatest in 1992 following a distemper outbreak among some nest/poult predator populations in 1991.

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