Wild turkey responses to intensive pine management in Virginia's central piedmont

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Wild turkey mortality rates, habitat use patterns, and recruitment were investigated on intensively managed pine forest of the Central Piedmont. Thirty-two adults and poults were captured with adult dosages of alpha-chloralose. Poults were easily sedated and usually recovered 1 day sooner than adults.

The annual mortality rate for marked turkeys was 85%; September-February mortality was 65% (N=17), and March-August mortality was 57% (N=21). Turkeys that died during hunting seasons were recovered significantly (p < 0.05) closer to roads than those that died out of hunting seasons. High mortality during the hunting seasons and the association of hunting season mortality with roads suggests a crippling loss to legal harvest ratio as high as 4:1.

Use of young pine plantations, hardwood leave strips, large stands of mixed hardwoods, mature pine stands, and fields was not significantly different (p > 0.1) from availability. Turkeys were associated with edges while on their winter and prenesting ranges. Nests were located in a variety of stand types, near edges, and in heavier cover than generally available. Nesting success was 48%. Post critical period brood survival was 90%. These data indicate that wild turkeys can adapt to the early stages of forest conversion for intensive pine management.