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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Lester D. Flake


south dakota, ecology, enviromnet, wild turkets


The ecology of a recently introduced population of eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) was studied during 1999 and 2000 to determine the adaptability of this subspecies to a minimally forested (<10%) region in northeastern South Dakota. A total of 74 females (53 in 1999 and 21 in 2000) were captured in Iowa and Kentucky, fitted with radio transmitters, and released on the study area in Grant County. In the second year, 6 males from Iowa and 9 first generation juvenile females captured on the study area were added to the monitored sample. Annual survival for 1999 and 2000 averaged 67% for females and in 2000 was 80% for males. Seasonal survival was lowest in the fall. Mortality agents included avian and mammalian predators, haying equipment, automobiles, and unknown causes. Nesting rate for the 2 years averaged 93% and renesting rate of turkeys with failed first-nest attempts averaged 45%. Nest success for all nests was 50% for years combined; 62% of females attempting to nest each year were successful in at least 1 attempt. Predation was the primary cause of nest failure during both years. Overall, 72% of brooding females successfully raised ≥1 poult to 4 weeks post-hatch while individual poult survival to 4 weeks post-hatch averaged 36%. Estimates of home range size, core area, and spring dispersal were up to 10 times larger than reported by most other researchers, suggesting a poor interspersion of important habitat components in my study area. Spring home ranges and core areas were 1. 4 - 3. 5 times larger than corresponding utilization polygons of other seasons. In the spring, successfully nesting females had larger utilization polygons than unsuccessful females (home ranges: 2,024 vs. 1565 ha; core areas: 404 vs. 311 ha, respectively). During the summer, females with broods had smaller utilization polygons than females without broods (home ranges: 492 vs. 735 ha; core areas: 138 vs. 178 ha, respectively). Eastern wild turkeys used all available habitats during all seasons, but generally selected woodland and pasture habitats whereas cropland was used less than available during all seasons. Brooding females during the summer were the most notable exception, using cropland more than pastureland. Females nested in all available habitats but selected for idle grassland (13% available, 44% utilized) and shrubland (3% available, 31% utilized) habitats while avoiding cropland (42% available, 1% utilized) and pastureland (29% available, 8% utilized) habitats. In general, female turkeys selected nest sites that offered a high degree of horizontal visual obstruction of the nest bowl (0-60 cm: 91. 7%, 60-180 cm: 20. 6%) and of the surrounding area within 30 m (0-60 cm: 69.3%, 60-180 cm: 11. 5%). Vegetation below 1 m provided substantial vertical obstruction of the nest bowl (53. 5%) and offered dense ground cover near the nest (grass: 49. 9%, f orbs: 19.0%, shrubs: 22. 6%). Available habitat in Grant County, South Dakota appears sufficient to meet eastern wild turkey habitat requirements for survival, reproduction, and brood rearing. Establishment of a sustainable population of eastern wild turkeys in this area appears to be a success.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Wild turkey -- Habitat -- South Dakota
Wild turkey -- Ecology -- South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references (page 112-120)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2001 Roger D. Shields. All rights reserved.