Trends in male wild Turkey abundance and harvest following restoration efforts in the southeast region of Missouri, 1960-2010

Michael V. Clawson, John R. Skalski, Jason L. Isabelle, Joshua J. Millspaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Long-term estimates of abundance can be useful in elucidating wildlife population and hunter dynamics as well as other potential factors affecting populations. We used estimated vulnerability coefficients from a statistical population reconstruction (SPR) analysis (1996-2010), along with a 50-year time series of harvest and hunter-effort data to reconstruct a male wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) population in southeastern Missouri, USA (1960-2010; Gast et al. 2013). Following restoration efforts, the male wild Turkey population in the Ozarks East Turkey productivity region grew rapidly following a logistic growth pattern, from 2,932 turkeys in 1960 to 15,764 in 1980, and vacillated around a stable equilibrium from 1980 to 2010. Distance from St. Louis, Missouri, explained 19.8% of the variation in hunter density while Turkey density only explained 1.1%, suggesting that factors beyond game density influenced hunter distribution. To explain the high inter-annual variation of abundance found in the historical reconstruction, we examined the relationship between spring weather, recruitment, and abundance metrics. A multiple linear regression found total precipitation in June to be positively correlated and the number of cold days in April to be negatively correlated with yearling male (1 year old): adult male ratios in the following spring. Our results suggest the current wild Turkey population is controlled primarily by extrinsic factors through effects on reproduction. Evidence of a stable population with high inter-annual variation lends support for using consistent harvest regulations rather than altering regulations annually to accommodate short-term trends in abundance. Our research highlights the utility of SPR models to assess factors affecting historical wildlife population demographics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-128
Number of pages13
JournalWildlife Society Bulletin
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Keywords

  • Meleagris gallopavo
  • Missouri
  • hunter
  • hunter behavior
  • population abundance
  • weather
  • wild Turkey

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