Spatial Ecology and Survival of Male Wild Turkeys in a Bottomland Hardwood Forest

Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) ecology in bottomland hardwood forests remains poorly understood. Specifically, managers lack basic information on spatial ecology and survival of males in these forests. Space use is an important tool to determine areas of extensive or non-use, and these areas may provide insight to managing quality habitats for turkeys. Furthermore, no information is available on potential shifts in space use by males before and during the breeding season, yet such information could help managers better understand male behavior relative to habitat management scenarios. Likewise, little information is available on survival of males in Louisiana although estimates of survival help managers balance population and harvest management. We radio-monitored 29 male wild turkeys to evaluate spatial ecology during 2005-2007 in south-central Louisiana. We used 108 males (with and without radios) to assess seasonal survival rates during 1998-2007. Seasonal home ranges varied from 966 ha in fall/winter to 768 ha in spring. Males did not move about their home ranges differently during the weeks before and during the breeding season, nor did they shift space use at the core area scale before and during the breeding season. Survival was lowest in spring (0.43, SE = 0.09) and highest in fall/winter (0.74; SE = 0.05) and summer (0.74; SE=0.06). Mean annual survival was 0.64 (SE = 0.06) and ≤15% of marked males were harvested. Factors such as habitat heterogeneity, dominance status, season, and age acted synergistically or on an individual level to influence spatial ecology. Our estimates of annual survival are among the highest ever reported, likely due to a conservative harvest strategy and restricted hunting season.

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