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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


merriam's turkey, black hills, south dakota, habitat, seasonal distribution, survival


With unlimited hunting licenses available and over one million acres of public land for hunting access, the Black Hills of South Dakota has become a popular destination for turkey hunters seeking the Merriam’s wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo merriami). Recent trend data indicates increasing spring turkey hunting pressure and there is concern of possible over-harvest of adult male Merriam’s turkeys in the Black Hills. To address these concerns I have completed a study to determine survival of male Merriam’s turkeys in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. Adult male Merriam’s turkeys (n = 74) were captured and radio-collared in the months of January through March 2005 and 2006. In addition to radio-collaring adult males I leg-banded male turkeys (n = 65) during the trapping season. Annual survival of radio-collared adult males for the study period was 0.42 (SE = 0.06). Mortality factors of radio-collared wild turkeys included hunting and predation; spring harvest was the primary mortality factor in the Black Hills (73%). Fall harvest accounted for 4% of mortality, and crippling loss accounted for 2%. Mammalian predation accounted for 2% while avian predation comprised 2% of total mortality. 17% of mortalities were classified as unknown. However, crippling loss may have been higher and predation rates lower due to the difficulty of determining mortalities in an adequate time frame. Research demonstrates poor leg band reporting rates (16.9%) and managers should use radio-telemetry or reward bands to obtain sufficient harvest data. Home range characteristics of Merriam’s turkeys have been documented throughout their current occupied range. In addition, home ranges of female turkeys have been determined in the Black Hills of South Dakota, however, knowledge of home range characteristics of Merriam’s wild turkey gobblers in the Black Hills is generally lacking. The objective of this investigation was to document spring home range sizes during the spring turkey hunting season. Spring season during this study was defined as 1 April-30 June. Home ranges were analyzed for 34 adult male Merriam’s turkeys. Mean 90% fixed kernel home range size differed between 2005 (4.4 km2) (SE = 0.7) and 2006 (13.2 km2) (SE = 3.0). Although spring movements were not documented during this study, further investigations should focus on the effects of hunting pressure on spring movements and home range characteristics of adult gobblers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Merriam's turkey -- Mortality -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)
Merriam's turkey -- Habitat -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)
Merriam's turkey -- Seasonal distribution -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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