Seasonal Space Use and Habitat Selection of Female Wild Turkeys in a Louisiana Bottomland Hardwood Forest

Significant losses to bottomland hardwood forests have occurred throughout the southeastern United States, and considerable efforts are ongoing to restore bottomlands. Understanding ecology of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in these systems will become increasingly important as distribution and availability of these forests continues to change through time. Although considerable research has examined space and habitat use of wild turkeys in upland forests, information is lacking for bottomland hardwood systems. We captured and radiomarked 32 female wild turkeys in a bottomland hardwood forest in south-central Louisiana. We used radiotelemetry to estimate patterns of space use and habitat selection during 2002-2004. Space use was greatest during preincubation when females typically search for suitable nest sites and was least during brood-rearing. Space use relative to other studies was greater during nesting periods, a consequence of low nest initiation rates and poor nest success. Upland and lowland forests were selected by females when establishing home ranges, but waterbased forest, upland forest, and openings were selected when establishing core use areas. Females consistently used water-based forest within their home ranges throughout all seasons. Increased space use during preincubation suggests that habitat management scenarios likely to increase early successional plant communities in the understory are needed. Forests associated with permanent water features were clearly important to female turkeys at multiple spatial scales, and should be managed to promote conditions that optimize habitat quality throughout the annual cycle. Key words: bottomland hardwood forest, compositional analysis, habitat selection, home range, Louisiana, Meleagris gallopavo, space use, wild turkey

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1629