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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. Jensen


Due to increasing population trends of Merriam’s turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo merriami), the Black Hills of Wyoming has become a popular spring wild turkey hunting destination. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department currently limits spring wild turkey hunters to 1 license (good for the harvest of 1 male wild turkey), and the department was interested in determining if a proposed change in the bag limit would affect annual gobbler survival in the Black Hills of Wyoming. I completed a study to determine the survival of male Merriam’s turkeys under the current license structure. A follow-up study will be conducted to determine the survival of male wild turkeys when spring wild turkey hunters are allowed to obtain up to 2 licenses (each good for the harvest of 1 male wild turkey). Male Merriam’s turkeys (n=151) were radio-collared from January through March in 2008 and 2009. Collared wild turkeys were monitored 2-3 times per week through the end of May in 2008 and 2009. Mortalities were retrieved and the cause of death was determined. Mortalities were classified into seven categories: mammalian predation, avian predation, crippling, weather-related, accidental, hunting, or unknown. Spring hunting (26%) and crippling (5%) were the cause of 31% of the mortality. Fall hunting and crippling accounted for 4% of the mortality, predation accounted for 22% of the mortality, and 42% of the mortalities were classified as unknown. Extrapolated annual survival rates were calculated in Program MARK and were different between years and among age classes, with the exception of the between-year comparison for 2 year old birds. Extrapolated annual survival rates were 0.1539 for jakes in 2008 and 0.4929 in 2009; 0.1827 for 2 year olds in 2008-09; and 0.4751 in 2008 and 0.1266 in 2009 for birds ≥ 3 years old. Apparent seasonal survival estimates were calculated with known-fate models in Program MARK. The best fit model incorporated age (weekly S = 0.9820 for jakes and weekly S = 0.9880 for adults), hunting (weeklyS = 0.9578), severe weather (weekly S = 0.9614), and severe weather that occurred during the hunting season (weekly S = 0.9014) as variables that significantly affected the survival of male Merriam’s turkeys in the Wyoming Black Hills.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Merriam's turkey--Wyoming
Merriam's turkey--Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)
Turkey hunting--Wyoming
Turkey hunting--Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)


Includes bibliographical references (pages 40-49)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright 2004 Samuel J. Cahoy. All rights reserved.