Animal Welfare-based Modification of the Rio Grande Wild Turkey Funnel Trap

The funnel trap has proven a safe (for handlers), efficient, low-manpower method of capturing Rio Grande turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia). Field biologists in Texas maintain that private ranchers accept this technique more readily than alternatives because it is passive and only requires one person. The impact of the technique on animal welfare, however, has not been addressed. In 2002, in the first year of an ongoing population ecology study, we trapped 46 turkeys using a standard walk in trap, and 40 more where a tarpaulin was slipped over the trap prior to removing birds. Using this modification, trap-related mortalities dropped from 4 to 1, serious injuries fell from 11 to 1, and minor abrasions declined from 5 to 4. Funnel traps were easily modified to minimize turkey injuries and relieve landowner concerns about injury rates. We suggest biologists consider how physical trauma to wildlife caused by capture devices influences animal welfare, trap efficiency, and public perception of wildlife management activities.

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