Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Nebraska
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Nebraska Project

Evaluating reproduction, harvest, timing of season, connectivity, and spatial ecology of wild turkeys in Nebraska

August 2022 - December 2026


Participating Agencies

  • Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Wild turkeys are an important game species in Nebraska and across the United States of America. Managers and hunters have reported declines in the number of wild turkeys in Nebraska, similar to declines in other states and regions. Though specific causes of the declines have not been identified, most populations have reported low productivity (e.g., nest success, brood survival), but other causes also may exist. To reverse this decline, state wildlife agencies have reduced wild turkey bag limits and prioritized habitat management efforts to increase recruitment and adult female survival in the breeding season. These efforts have slowed wild turkey population declines across the country, but populations continue to decrease in certain areas, suggesting there are other site-specific factors affecting growth rates (e.g., landcover availability, brood and hen survival). Knowledge of ecology and population dynamics at local scales is needed to understand the causes of decline and inform conservation efforts in statewide and nationwide efforts to reduce (and ultimately reverse) current population trends.

We are applying a multifaceted approach to examine the ecology and population dynamics of wild turkeys in Nebraska and specifically aim to: (1) estimate annual reproductive parameters, (2) determine space use and habitat selection of males and females, (3) examine the influence of habitat patch connectivity on effective dispersal (gene flow), (4) estimate survival and harvest rates, (5) evaluate the influence of male social status on patterns of parentage in clutches, and (6) describe gobbling activity. We are partnering with University of Georgia, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and Nebraska Chapter of The National Wild Turkey Federation for field data collection.