Eastern Wild Turkey Response to Hunting Feral Hogs with Dogs

Impacts of feral hogs (Sus scrofa) on native plant and animal communities have increased as feral hogs have expanded in geographic range. Wildlife managers use a host of tactics to manage population growth of feral hogs, including recreational hunting with dogs. However, hunting with dogs can cause disturbance and behavioral changes to non-target species. We monitored 161 eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) over 147 days during 2014-2018 in South Carolina to evaluate turkey movement behaviors and range sizes before, during, and after spring feral hog-dog hunts. The average daily distance traveled per bird in the two-week period preceding hunting was 1940 m (SD = 899; range 158-10,048 m). Average dai- ly distances traveled decreased by 0.3% on days during hunts but increased 15.6% during the two-week period following hunts. Daily distance traveled decreased by 9% on hunted days compared to non-hunted days. Average distance between consecutive roost sites in the two-week period before hunt- ing was 512 m (SD = 483; range 0-3484 m), and increased 22% during hunts. During the two-week period following hunts, average distance between consecutive roost sites decreased 15%. We found no difference between range sizes of wild turkeys in the two-week period before compared to the two- week period after hunts. Our results showed movement response of wild turkeys to disturbance from feral hog-dog hunting was highly individualistic and may depend on the frequency of interactions individual turkeys have with dogs and hunters. Short duration, high intensity feral hog-dog hunts had limited impacts on wild turkey movement ecology.

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