Movement and reproductive ecology of female eastern wild turkeys in a managed longleaf pine forest
Wood, Jeremy Daniel
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Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forests rely on frequent prescribed fire, but how prescribed fire influences habitat selection, and nest and brood survival of eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris; turkeys) is poorly understood. I captured 63 female turkeys during 2015-2016 and used GPS transmitters to document reproductive chronology, movement, and habitat selection during the reproductive period. I found that increased patch diversity increased nest survival, whereas proximity to stands burned 3 growing seasons prior reduced brood survival. Females selected hardwood stands during pre-nesting and post-nesting phases, open vegetation communities during all phases except pre-nesting, and used pine stands regardless of fire return interval throughout the reproductive period. I suggest managers focus on creating a mosaic of pine seral stages, intermixed with open and hardwood vegetation communities, while applying frequent prescribed fire (1-3 years) to create understory conditions selected by turkeys for foraging and concealment year-round.