Date of Award

12-2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Guynn, Jr, David C

Abstract

Survival, nesting success, and habitat selection of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) populations in South Carolina were evaluated. The study was conducted on the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS) in the Upper Coastal Plain of South Carolina. Portions of the study were conducted on Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area and Ecological Reserve (CWMA) on the western portion of SRS. During January through March of 1998 - 2000, 37 hens and 47 gobblers were captured on SRS, and 19 gobblers were captured on CWMA and fitted with radio transmitters. Survival rates between hunted and unhunted wild turkey gobblers were compared to assess the impact of spring gobbler-only hunts on populations. Hens were monitored to identify nest site characteristics of successful and unsuccessful nests and to determine survival rates and mortality factors of hens. Gobblers and hens on SRS were monitored to determine if they selected for or against available habitat types. Also, the effects of growing and dormant season prescribed burning on plant food species for the eastern wild turkey were compared. Annual survival rates of gobblers on SRS were significantly greater than annual survival rates of gobblers on CWMA. Bobcats (Lynx rufus) were the primary confirmed predator of hens and of gobblers on both areas. Woody stem densities immediately surrounding the nest were greater at successful nest sites than those at unsuccessful nest sites, and nest concealment values also were greater at successful nests than unsuccessful ones. At the study-area scale, during fall and winter, habitat use by gobblers and hens was significantly different than habitat availability. Gobblers selected for upland and bottomland hardwoods, while hens selected for upland hardwoods, bottomland hardwoods, and mixed-pine hardwoods, and both gobblers and hens selected against mature pines. Our results indicate that spring gobbler harvests constitute additive mortality to turkey populations. In order to maximize nest success, concealment cover should be provided through management to ensure adequate concealment of wild turkey nests. Overall, few differences were seen in plant food abundance between burning treatments, possibly because of the short length of time that the growing season burn regime has been in place.

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Agriculture Commons

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