Semester of Graduation

Fall 2017

Degree

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Renewable Natural Resources

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Many southeastern states, including South Carolina, in the last 10 -15 years have seen a decline in Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) populations. Around 50,000 turkey hunters in South Carolina, result in approximately 35 million annually in revenue. Turkeys encounter a unique situation as environmental variation and hunter activity may impact behaviors as hunting occurs during the reproductive season. Mistimed hunting seasons could result in population declines. Timing of harvest requires managers to implement seasons that allow for hunter satisfaction (hearing gobbles) while ensuring no detriment to turkey populations through impacts to reproduction. To better understand factors influencing gobbling activity, I evaluated gobbling chronology on 3 sites with a gradient of hunting pressure and used GPS technology to determine breeding chronology on 1of these sites. Gobbling activity varied day to day and was not impacted by changes in weather variables or hunter activity. Although, hunting activity was not responsible for variation in gobbling chronology, it did appear to impact number of gobbles recorded. Most (72% - 80%) of gobbling activity occurred within 150 minutes after sunrise and varied across sites. Peaks in gobbling did not coincide with mean nest incubation and gobbling decreased around mean nest initiation date. Gobbling activity was positively associated with increased movement by males, which corresponded with the onset of the breeding season and the number of females in reproduction. My findings suggest that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources should consider delaying the turkey hunting season until mid-April to ensure that males are not removed from the landscape before breeding, while capturing later peaks in gobbling in early May. Another anthropogenic factor with potential to effect turkey populations in the southeast is supplemental feeding. I deployed 111 global positioning systems on wild turkeys on the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Webb Wildlife Management Area Complex during 2014–2016 to evaluate if supplemental feeding for quail impacted wild turkey movement. I found no prevailing relationship between supplemental feeding for quail and wild turkey movements. However, potential for individuals to concentrate use where feed is present could influence harvest susceptibility and/or predation risk.

Date

11-14-2017

Committee Chair

Collier, Bret

Available for download on Tuesday, November 12, 2024

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