Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Landscape attributes associated with mortality events in wild turkeys of Arkansas
Thogmartin, W. E., and Schaeffer, B. A., 2000, Landscape attributes associated with mortality events in wild turkeys of Arkansas: Wildlife Society Bulletin 29, v. 4, p. 865-874.
Discerning relationships between landscape features and population dynamics is an increasingly important aspect of wildlife management and conservation biology. Although there is increasing knowledge of the influence of landscape elements on reproduction, specifically nesting success, wildlife scientists currently suffer from a paucity of data regarding landscape features that increase risk of mortality. We examined spatial attributes of 80 wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) mortality sites in Arkansas from 1993 to 1998 to determine landscape elements associated with mortality. We hypothesized that turkeys would be killed more often by predators in small patches, stream valleys, and other areas promoting predator use. We also suspected that habitat features differed between predation sites and where turkeys were harvested. With a geographic information system, we determined, for each kill site, cover-type, patch size and shape, measures of habitat diversity and interspersion, distances to United States Forest Service (USFS) roads and streams, terrain features (slope, elevation, aspect), and whether the kill occurred in edge or core habitat. We found that 59% of variation in mortality location could be explained by landscape characteristics. Predation occurred randomly across cover types, but more often in larger patches than were generally available in the study area. After excluding great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) predation, kill sites were located more frequently in stream valleys. Bobcat (Lynx rufus) and canid kills were segregated spatially in the landscape, with bobcat kills southwest of canid kills; 7 of 8 canid kills occurred in edge habitat, whereas bobcat kills were distributed equally in edge and core habitat. Harvest occurred in larger, more diverse patches situated on ridge tops and farther from well-traveled roads than did predation. These areas may provide refuge from predation when turkeys are not hunted. When possible, increased closings of logging roads and trails to vehicular traffic is recommended because it appears that poachers used these paths to access turkey habitat away from well-traveled roads. Also, we suggest that increased penalties, reward programs, and education may aid in reducing losses due to poaching.
wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, wildlife management,