Although the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo; hereafter, turkey) is one of the most popular game species in the United States, there is no consensus on how best to monitor turkey populations. Harvest data are readily available to state wildlife agencies but are often not coupled with other datasets (e.g., hunter effort) for demographic assessments. We described the utility of statistical population reconstruction (SPR) to unite disparate datasets and effectively monitor status and trends of key turkey demographic rates at spatial scales relevant to wildlife managers. We demonstrated SPR model development and associated assumptions, model selection, and model evaluation using male-only models for turkeys in 2 regions of Missouri, USA, and compared model output to harvest-based and non-harvest-based indices. Use of SPR led to a more comprehensive assessment of population dynamics than did indices alone. Moreover, inference based solely on indices would likely have led to different interpretations of which factors govern turkey population dynamics and ultimately which management practices should be implemented. Disparity of model output between regions demonstrates importance of auxiliary data in SPR model utility. As such, we encourage well-planned and executed auxiliary studies to improve precision of demographic rates when using SPR models. Statistical population reconstruction provides a viable, useful tool to assess demographics of turkey populations and on which to base management decisions.
- harvest management
- Meleagris gallopavo
- statistical population reconstruction
- wild turkey