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

Space use and habitat selection of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) has been well studied in various upland landscapes, but information within bottomland hardwood systems is lacking. Turkeys in bottomland systems face unique situations (e.g., flooding) and turkey behavior observed in upland systems may not directly apply to bottomland systems. Therefore, we evaluated seasonal (pre-incubation, incubation, brood rearing, and fall-winter) space use and multi-scale habitat selection of adult female wild turkeys in a bottomland hardwood forest in south-central Louisiana during 2002-2004 and 2007-2010. Space use varied with the largest home ranges during pre-incubation and the smallest during brood-rearing. Female turkeys selected dry, upland forests relative to available habitat types at all spatial scales. Because upland forests are free of flooding and have adequate understory vegetation, they likely provide consistent foraging opportunities and suitable nesting habitat. Turkeys did not select forest stands managed with selective cutting likely because of dense woody understory growth. Our results indicate that forest management strategies that promote understory growth may not be useful to female turkeys and managers should concentrate on ensuring the presence of mature forests in areas not prone to flooding within bottomland hardwood systems.

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