Potential Effects of Capture and Radio-monitoring on Eastern Wild Turkey Reproduction

Wildlife researchers often assume capturing and marking do not influence marked animals' behavior, but this assumption is seldom tested. Therefore, we investigated effects of capture on reproductive success of eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) in east-central Mississippi. Hens were captured by cannon net, wing-tagged, radio-marked, and released between January and March 1990-1993. Marked and unmarked hens were observed at July and August bait sites 1990-1993; those observed with ≥ 1 poult were classified as reproductively successful. Hens captured during January-March, prior to the reproductive period, were less likely to be reproductively successful than either unmarked hens (P = 0.009) or hens captured in previous years (P = 0.048). We concluded that some factor in the capture process affects turkey reproduction in year of capture, but that this effect diminishes over time. Our results indicated that past studies of wild turkey reproduction using cannon net captured and radio-equipped hens may have underestimated reproductive success. We recommend using a non-intrusive method to obtain data concerning reproductive success of wild turkeys.

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