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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Kent C. Johnson


Due to increasing populations of Merriam’s wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo merriami) and unlimited spring season license availability, the Black Hills of western South Dakota has become a popular destination for spring turkey hunters. Recent trend data indicates increasing spring hunting pressure and has led to questions regarding the potential over-harvest of adult male turkeys in the Black Hills. In response to these concerns, the present study was initiated to determine survival rates for Merriam’s turkeys in the northern Black Hills, SD. Adult and juvenile male wild turkeys (n = 137) were captured and radio-marked during January and February of 2008 and 2009. Marked turkeys were monitored two to four times per week during the field season of January through the end of May in 2008 and 2009. Mortality sources during this study included hunting (both during the spring and fall seasons), predation, presumed hunter crippling loss, weather-related mortalities, one vehicle collision and other unknown sources. Spring harvest was the primary source of mortality for marked males in the northern Black Hills (34%) during this study. Fall harvest accounted for 7% and an additional 7% was attributed to crippling loss. Avian predation accounted for 10% of all mortalities, while mammalian predation comprised 7%. One juvenile male was struck by a vehicle, and 12% of the sample died as a result of severe, late winter/early spring blizzards. Twenty-two percent of mortalities were classified as unknown due to the inability to determine cause-specific mortality. Annual survival rates were estimated and modeled using a nest survival module in Program MARK (White and Burnham 1999). Only juvenile male survival (Ŝ) differed between years, (Ŝ) of (t) = 0.5883 in 2008 and Ŝ (t) = 0.3809 in 2009. Adult males had an annual survival rate of Ŝ of (t) = 0.3269 in 2008 and S (t) = 0.6662 in 2009. Seasonal survival estimates were calculated in Program MARK using known fate models (White and Burnham 1999). Estimates were based on a 14-week period (23 February-30 May, 2008 and 21 February-29 May, 2009) and are as follows: 2008 juveniles Ŝ = 0.6899; 2008 adults Ŝ = 0.6567; 2009 juveniles Ŝ = 0.7247; 2009 adults Ŝ =0.6413. The present study indicates that under the current licensing system, spring harvest rates for male wild turkeys in the northern Black Hills are not at a level that would significantly alter the age structure within the male population. However, our results do indicate that during years with numerous severe late-winter weather events followed by mild spring weather conditions, hunter harvest could result in additive mortality and potentially alter the male age structure and, thus, the sex ratio of the population.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Cellulosic ethanol
Biomass energy
Energy crops--Economic aspects
Game and game-birds--Nests


Includes bibliographical references



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright 2010 Thomas C. Berdan. All rights reserved.