The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the University of Missouri – Columbia are conducting a five and a half year cooperative research project to learn why we are seeing a downward trend in our state’s turkey population.
The goal of the study is to scientifically gather data in order to suggest informed large landscape changes to our turkey populations. This research will not only impact Missouri, but many states that have the same trend as ours.
We are partnering with National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) to raise money to help fund part of this multi-year research project.
We need your help to continue this critically important research. If we help increase turkey numbers, we help all woodland/upland species, including the Bobwhite Quail!
- $100 = one box trap for nest predator (raccoon, opossum, etc.) tagging.
- $150 = one VHF transmitter that will be used to monitor survival of an individual turkey poult.
- $200 = one trail camera set-up (includes lock, SD cards, batteries, etc.) to monitor occupancy of coyote, fox, and other larger predators.
- $1,500 = one GPS transmitter that will be used to monitor movements and reproductive attempts of hens.
More about the research
Wild turkey production has exhibited a long-term declining trend, with recent hatches being especially poor.
Nest success and poult survival rates from a previous north Missouri study were lower than many previously reported estimates from the literature, and the poult-to-hen ratios calculated from the summer brood survey during the past 4 years are some of the lowest in the state’s history.
Potential factors adversely affecting turkey production:
- Density dependence
- Large-scale landscape change
- Changing weather patterns
- Decreasing insect abundance
- Increasing populations of some mesocarnivores (racoons, coyotes, foxes, skunks, etc.)
Improving our understanding of factors affecting turkey nest success and poult survival would inform habitat management efforts on public and private lands in Missouri to increase turkey abundance.
Objectives of this five and one-half year cooperative research project with Drs. Mitch Weegman and Michael Byrne at the University of Missouri include:
- Determine the most effective method of attaching radio-transmitters to turkey poults.
- Determine how weather (temperature and precipitation), landscape characteristics, predator densities, and their interactions affect turkey nest success.
- Determine how weather (temperature and precipitation), landscape characteristics, predator densities, and invertebrate abundance affect poult survival, and identify the main causes of poult mortality.
- Assess turkey brood-rearing habitat selection and determine habitats where turkeys and predators are most likely to interact.
To investigate poult survival and cause-specific mortality, Very High Frequency (VHF) radio transmitters will be deployed onto wild turkey poults. To reduce the potential of researcher-induced poult mortality, the least invasive and most effective technique for transmitter attachment will be tested using two methods—glue-on and suture—on captive turkey poults prior to the first field season.
To investigate turkey nest success, poult survival, and brood-rearing habitat selection, Global Positioning System-Acceleration-Ultra High Frequency (GPS-ACC-UHF) transmitters will be deployed on wild turkey hens. Translating ACC data into behavior requires known instances of acceleration attributed to specific behaviors. Thus, the team will deploy GPS-ACC-UHF tracking devices on captive turkey hens and film >100 instances of common behaviors (e.g., feeding, walking, resting/stationary). The information gathered from the captive turkey hens will be used to determine where, when, and how often wild turkey hens are engaging in specific behaviors.
Field work for this project will cover 4 nesting and brood-rearing seasons (to capture annual variability in covariates), and work will be conducted in Putnam County, Missouri. Hens will be monitored for productivity and poults will be monitored for survival. Wild turkey nest and poult predators will be monitored for occupancy and density. The team will evaluate the effects of habitat, weather, and food availability on turkey reproduction by conducting vegetation surveys, collecting temperature and precipitation data, and collecting insects at systematic locations throughout the study area.