Influence of prescribed fire on reproductive ecology of female eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) in west-central Louisiana
Yeldell, Nathan Andrew
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The eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) inhabits fire-managed, pine-dominated ecosystems of the Southeastern United States. However, the influence of fire-induced disturbance on reproductive ecology of turkeys is poorly understood. Therefore, I investigated nest site selection, nest survival, habitat selection, and behavioral response to fire by female wild turkeys in a fire-managed pine ecosystem of Louisiana. Turkeys nested in forest stands with various fire histories, but nest survival was lowest where fire was absent for ≥3 years. Turkeys selected hardwood stands and avoided recently burned pine stands during winter, but selected pines burned zero and one years prior during the reproductive period. Turkeys used recently burned areas, but use peaked at 103 days post-fire before declining. Turkeys were more likely to use burned areas near the perimeter, but use of interior space increased with time-since-fire. I recommend managers in southeastern pine forests apply fire at 3-year intervals and maintain habitat diversity through retention of hardwood stands.