Effect of Habitat and Movement on Wild Turkey Poult Survival

Poult survival is an important factor in the dynamics of eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) populations. We captured wild turkeys in western Virginia and monitored radio-tagged hens (N=26) to determine the effect of brood habitat, brood movements and brood range size on poult survival. Poult survival to 21 days post-hatch averaged 0.203 (SE=0.05) during 1992 and 0.418 (SE=0.11) during 1993 (T= 1.37, P>0.10). No correlations were detected (P≥0.10) between macrohabitat and forest cover type variables and poult survival. Poult survival was correlated with the percentage of brood habitat composed of herbaceous understory vegetation (P=0.058). Poult survival was also examined in relation to a simple brood habitat classification system; however, no correlations were detected (P≥0.10). Average daily distance moved during the first week after hatching (T=0.69, P>0.10), average daily distance moved during the first month after hatching (T=1.15, P>0.10), and brood range size (T=-0.34, P>0.10) did not differ between hens with high and low poult survival. High quality brood rearing habitat (i.e., managed forest and non-forested areas) may be limited in western Virginia and could be enhanced through forest management activities and creation of herbaceous openings.

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