EVALUATION OF EASTERN WILD TURKEY (MELEAGRIS SILVESTRIS GALLOPAVO) PRODUCTIVITY AND RECRUITMENT UTILIZING SNAPSHOT WISCONSIN TRAIL CAMERA IMAGES
Butkiewicz, Hannah Elena
College of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
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The eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) is an economically and culturally important upland game bird species in Wisconsin, USA. Once extirpated from the state, this species was successfully recovered and can now be found statewide. Wildlife managers previously relied on opportunistic brood surveys to monitor wild turkey productivity statewide including the Wild Turkey Landowner Brood Survey and the Ten-Week Brood Survey; however, both surveys were discontinued due to steep declines in survey effort in recent years. Currently, state wildlife managers are exploring the use of Snapshot Wisconsin (SSWI), a community-based science wildlife monitoring project, as an alternative method to monitor statewide turkey distribution and productivity. SSWI’s existing network of more than 2,000 trail cameras is the first trail camera project of this spatial scope to study eastern wild turkeys. We reviewed over 91,000 SSWI trail camera triggers of wild turkeys, resulting in >270,000 photos, taken from April-August 2016-2020. Photographed turkeys were classified by sex and age class (tom, jake, hen, poult) to determine the percentage of successful hens, poult-to-hen ratios, and poults-per-brood across time, turkey management zone (TMZ), county, and different land cover types. Annual trends observed in these metrics were comparable to those observed in the Ten-Week Brood Survey. Mixed effect linear modeling was then used to identify temporal and spatial covariates that could predict these ratios. Week was the most important temporal covariate for percentage of successful hens and poult-to-hen ratios, and month was the most important for poults-per-brood. The top mixed effect models for the percentage of successful hens and poults-per-brood included county and a quadratic effect of the proportion of oak cover. The top model for poult-to-hen ratios included TMZ and the proportion of conifer cover. Our research demonstrates that SSWI provides a novel technique for monitoring wild turkey productivity and recruitment at spatial and temporal scales that are not practical with traditional field-based methods such as flush counts and radio telemetry.
Eastern wild turkey
Meleagris gallopavo silvestris