Prescribed burning is an important component of habitat management in many habitats where wild turkeys occur. The effects of small scale dormant season prescribed burns have been documented to a large extent, but over the past decade, an increasing use of large scale growing season prescribed burns has occurred. Changes in burning technology have resulted in these latter burns being both extensive (>500 ha) and intensive (few remaining unburned areas left), and as a result of the timing, the understory changes from one dominated by woody plants to one dominated by grasses and forbs. The effects of this new burning protocol are little studied, but biologists familiar with turkey breeding biology have voiced concerns that hen productivity may suffer. Two mechanisms thought to be impacted by this new burning protocol are increased prenesting movements and lower nest success both because of a reduced amount and juxtaposition of appropriate nesting cover. In the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest is located the White Rock Ecosystem Restoration Project where these new burning protocols have been implemented with the ultimate goal of restoring pine-oak woodlands there.
OBJECTIVES: We intend to take advantage of this Project and document the effects of these burns on wild turkey biology. Our objectives are to:
1. Examine habitat selection of female wild turkeys at multiple spatial scales and seasons with respect to burn regimes. We will pay particular attention to nest site selection.
2. Document pre-nesting movements of hens and relate those movements to nest and hen breeding success.
3. Estimate period and annual hen survival, and productivity.
4. Compare our habitat use, movements and vital rate estimates against those same comparable values for radio-marked wild turkey hens monitored at the same site in 1992 and 1993 before large scale growing season prescribed burns were used.
5. Develop management recommendations to enhance nesting habitat availability, hen survival and recruitment in the Central Hardwoods Region.