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Tuesday, January 29 • 4:00pm - 4:20pm
(WILDLIFE: UPLAND 2) Eastern Wild Turkey Distribution and Patch Occupancy Across Northern Wisconsin

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AUTHORS: Chris Pollentier, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Mike Hardy, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Scott Lutz, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Scott Hull, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) were successfully reintroduced in Wisconsin during the mid-1970s and populations have since expanded beyond their ancestral range throughout the state. Abundance has generally been considered greatest in areas with highly diverse landscapes that include upland woodlands interspersed with agriculture and other open-herbaceous land cover. However, many areas across far northern Wisconsin are comprised of landscapes where the forested area represents > 70% of the land cover. While much research has been focused on areas where populations are generally highest, study of wild turkeys across the far northern reaches of their range in the Upper Midwest and northern Wisconsin has been limited. To better understand wild turkey distribution and habitat relationships across northern Wisconsin, we conducted gobbling call-count surveys along 157 routes from 2013–2017 and instituted a multiseason correlated replicate occupancy modeling approach to link landscape characteristics to patch occupancy. Probability of occupancy was best related to a quadratic function of percentage of open cover (ß = -4.10, SE = 1.07), with probability of occupancy peaking in routes with 30–40% open cover. Probability of colonization was positively associated with the percentage of available agriculture planted in corn (ß = 1.14, SE = 0.42), and also showed a weak negative association with the amount of snow cover (ß = -1.13, SE = 0.62). Our results suggest that even in landscapes where forest cover is pervasive, wild turkeys benefit from the availability of open-herbaceous cover. In addition, corn-crop agriculture serves as an important food resource for wild turkey populations across heavily-forested northern Wisconsin landscapes and influences the probability of colonization into previously unoccupied areas. A better understanding of the distribution of wild turkeys across their northern range will provide much needed information to help guide contemporary management strategies in a post-restoration era.

Tuesday January 29, 2019 4:00pm - 4:20pm EST