Habitat Use of Wild Turkey Hens in Northwestern West Virginia

Little is known about effects of selective harvesting on home range and habitat use of wild turkeys. Such knowledge is needed to develop sound wild turkey management plans. Thirty-two eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) hens were monitored by telemetry in Wetzel County, West Virginia, from 15 April to 18 August 1990-1992. Spring home range (N = 24) averaged 532 ha; hens (N = 6) nesting in selectively harvested habitats had significantly smaller (344 ha) home ranges than hens (N = 18) nesting in unharvested forest (609 ha) (P = 0.01). Summer home range averaged 631 ha with no significant difference {P = 0.59) between hens using unharvested (N — 11) or harvested (TV = 5) stands. Although hens nested in 5 habitat types in proportion to their availability, during nesting (15 April to hatching) and brood-rearing (hatching to 18 August), unharvested chestnut oak (Quercusprinus) and bottomland hardwood and nonforest habitats were used more than expected. Laying-incubation ranges had significantly higher (P = 0.01) average (± SD) percent understory cover in harvested (TV = 7) (59 ± 6.6%) than unharvested (N = 20) (36 ± 4.3%) areas. Percent herbaceous understory cover in broodrearing habitat was significantly higher (P = 0.01) in harvested (N = 6) (72 ± 1.9%) than unharvested (N = 12) (60 ± 2.1%) areas. Selective timber harvesting may have increased food availability and structural heterogeneity of understory vegetation, thus improving quality of wild turkey nesting and brood-rearing habitats.

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