Semester of Graduation

Spring 2020

Degree

Master of Science (MS)

Department

School of Renewable Natural Resources

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Space use is driven by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors across space and time. Meaning a species demography and habitat requirements may vary across landscapes. Recent studies on wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo spp., hereafter turkey) have shown both direct and indirect demographic impacts of climatically driven events on turkey populations. Similarly, there is an abundance of information documenting turkey demographic parameters and space use, but few studies have addressed breeding phenology in great detail. We evaluated the impact on space use and movement patterns of Eastern wild turkeys (M. g. silvestris; n = 20) and Rio Grande wild turkeys (M. g. intermedia; n = 22) during two hurricane events in South Carolina and Texas, respectively. We had one direct mortality in South Carolina and 2 direct mortalities during Hurricanes Matthew and Harvey, respectively. Mean core area used by turkeys decreased by 75% during both hurricane events. We did not find evidence of changes in roost fidelity or distance between daily roost clusters after either hurricane.

We assessed the variation of space use and movement for phenological-based reproductive states of Rio Grande wild turkeys (n = 256 females, 39 males) in Texas from 2009−2018. Estimated space use during the wintering period decreased, suggesting the use of a smaller core area may contain reliable food resources. Most interestingly, females in each pre-laying state used larger areas than all other phenological states. Such large movements were suggestive of exploratory movements related to breeding activities throughout the pre-laying state. Incubation ranges declined rapidly for each subsequent nesting attempt, with movements during incubation being primarily recess activities. We concluded that habitat structure and quality across sites is highly variable. This suggest that in some fragmented areas individuals may be restricted to core areas, while in other areas of low quality, individuals may make larger movements to meet daily requirements. We recommend wildlife managers evaluate habitat damage after a disturbance to address any legacy effects on turkey populations. Similarly, integrating the timing of turkey life history events into our understanding of the scale at which turkeys select habitats will aid in directing habitat improvement projects.

Committee Chair

Collier, Bret

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