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

Arkansas Project

A statewide decision support tool for turkey conservation in Arkansas: mapping habitat suitability, population growth rates, and where management will be most impactful

January 2024 - December 2027


Participating Agencies

  • Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

The apparent declines in wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) populations has led to growing concern in multiple states, and Arkansas is no exception. This has spurred the development of statewide decision support tools, such as habitat suitability models and population density maps, to assist in strategizing large-scale turkey conservation. However, these tools can run afoul of multiple complications: traditional habitat suitability models can oversimplify the diversity of turkey-habitat associations; density maps often provide little new information relative to habitat suitability maps; and neither of these tools account for the reality that conservation decisions are made in the face of complex socio-ecological landscapes, diverse and sometimes competing stakeholders, and limited funds. Therefore, there is a critical need to develop a decision support tool for Arkansas that 1) incorporates spatial non-stationarity into turkey habitat suitability analyses, 2) provides independent, spatially explicit information on turkey population growth rates, and 3) synthesizes turkey habitat suitability, turkey population growth rates, and relevant external socio-ecological information to identify areas where management actions will be most impactful and cost-efficient. Here, our overall goal is to develop and implement a decision support tool that informs wild turkey conservation and management strategies across Arkansas. Specifically, our objectives are: 1) Identify and map important turkey habitat across Arkansas using models that incorporate spatially non-stationary habitat relationships; 2) Estimate and map population growth rates of turkeys across Arkansas; 3) Using information from objectives 1 – 2, identify areas with the greatest potential to positively impact turkey populations through management; 4) Provide technical assistance for development of public-facing data products. The models, data products, and technical assistance we provide will put Arkansas Game & Fish Commission in an ideal position to prevent, halt, or potentially reverse turkey declines in Arkansas.