Wild Turkey population dynamics and brood survival project report
Provided by the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Wild turkey genetics, nesting success, and brood survival are among the research topics in a 4.5-year, $2 million study launched in 2022 by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, other state and federal entities, and private landowners working together to address wild turkey population dynamics. Following is a summary of recent study activities.
SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA POPULATION STUDY AREA: Researchers continued monitoring radio-marked hens for nesting activity. Two mortalities occurred during June, with one attributed to predation and one to an unknown cause. Since the start of the year, 17 mortalities have been confirmed.
Researchers are tracking and monitoring 13 hens, none of which is currently nesting. The status of five radio-marked hens is undetermined at present. Two nests were found during June, both of which were depredated later.
Researchers observed one successful hatch involving nine poults in June. Five of those poults were captured and tagged, but all were subsequently depredated.
The National Wild Turkey Federation was able to attend and video the last poult capture. Additionally, the vegetation sampling at nest locations is complete and researchers are in the process of retrieving camera traps.
SOUTHWESTERN OKLAHOMA POPULATION STUDY AREA: Researchers continued monitoring radio-marked hens and recorded eight nest initiations during June, three of which were first attempts, four were second attempts, and one being a third attempt. But seven nests were lost during June, with three losses attributed to predation and four to unknown causes. The failed nests were incubated from two to 23 days, with a per-nest average of 9.9 days. All egg remains were swabbed for environmental DNA to determine predator species.
One nest successfully hatched in late May, and another in June. Poult captures were completed for both successful nests. For the May nest, six of seven poults were captured and tagged. The single poult hatched in the June nest was successfully tagged. Unfortunately, the hen with the single poult was depredated the next day.
Of the six tagged poults from the May nest, we resighted all of them two weeks after capture; five the third week; three the fourth week; and two the last week. During the last week, the hen was flocked with two other hens with a total of 12 poults. We were unable to recover any of the poult transmitters, and we do not know if the transmitters fell off the tagged poults or if the poults perished.
Three hens were lost in June — two occurring on the nest, and all attributed to predation. All perished hens’ transmitters were retrieved and swabbed for eDNA to determine predator species.
At the end of June, researchers were tracking and monitoring 13 hens in the southwest, four of which were actively incubating. The status of three additional radio-marked hens was undetermined.
GENETICS STUDY: Researchers are processing and extracting DNA from wild turkey tissue samples. Once extracted, all samples from both 2022 and 2023 will be taken to a genomics facility in College Station, Texas, for low coverage whole genome sequencing.