10 Oct 2012
Survival and movements of Merriam’s turkey gobblers in the southern Black Hills, South Dakota

BRANTA — Ashly D. Steinke

Survival and movements of Merriam's turkey gobblers in the southern Black Hills, South Dakota

Institution: South Dakota State University, USA
Supervisors: KC Jensen
Details: MSc 2006 (Completed)

Address: Department of Wildlife Ecology, 218 Russell Labs, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA (May 2007) Email

Subject Keywords: hunting mortality, survival rates, movements
Species Keywords: Merriam's Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo merriami

Thesis Online here



With unlimited hunting licenses available and the large area of public hunting access, the Black Hills of South Dakota has become a popular destination for turkey hunters seeking the Merriam's wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo merriami) to complete their turkey hunting grand slam. As a result, hunting license numbers in the Black Hills have increased by about 97% since 2000. With such a large increase in hunter numbers coupled with hunter success rate remaining steady there is concern of possible over-harvest of adult male Merriam's turkeys in the Black Hills. To address these concerns we have completed a study to determine survival and movements of male Merriam's turkeys in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. Adult male Merriam's turkeys were captured and radio-collared in the months of January through March 2005 and 2006 (n=74). In addition to radio-collaring adult males we leg-banded male turkeys during the trapping season (n=65). Radio-marked turkeys were used to estimate survival and to provide a confidence interval for return rates of leg-banded turkeys. Annual survival of radio-collared adult males in the Black Hills for the study period was 0.42 (SE=0.06). We had a leg band return rate in the Black Hills of 16.9% (11/65). Mortality factors of radio-collared wild turkeys included hunting and predation; spring harvest was the primary mortality factor in the Black Hills (73%), followed by mammalian and avian predation (21%). Fall harvest accounted for 4% of mortality in the Black Hills, and crippling loss accounted for 1%. Observed mortality rates are mostly a result of increased hunting pressure, and research will continue with the goal of assessing hunter and harvest associations. During 2005, daily distances traveled differed between winter (1.4 km) and spring (1.0 km), however daily distances traveled were similar between winter (1.1 km) and spring (1.3 km) in 2006. Increased movements during spring 2005 was an indication of turkeys experiencing winter flock breakup before the specified winter period was complete probably due to unseasonably mild weather. During spring 2006, winter flocks did not break up until after the specified winter period thus resulting in decreased movement rates during the winter period. Consequently, it appears movements and availability of female turkey and weather events are important factors determining movement rates of male turkeys during the winter and spring periods respectively.

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