To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. -Theodore Roosevelt

B&C Fellow - Andrea Bowling

Michigan State University - PhD - Graduated 2014
Landscape-level effects of weather and land cover on wild turkey abundance, productivity, and regional harvest potential 


Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) management has shifted focus from restoration to sustainable harvest management. Populations appear to be reaching peak levels and are not likely to continue to grow. As hunter numbers and hunter skills increase, wildlife managers need to be better equipped to determine where and when wild turkey populations can accommodate greater hunting pressure, and where they cannot. We know that harvest, especially fall harvest, can influence wild turkey populations. Consequently, managers seek to ensure that harvest is done in a sustainable fashion. 

Wild turkey populations have proliferated on agriculture-forest matrix landscapes because habitat conditions are highly suited to their needs. However, as a ground-nesting species, the abundance of wild turkey populations is highly variable in space and time. We know that abundance in the agriculture-forest matrix is related to land cover and land configuration. We also know that the variability in wild turkey populations is driven by weather. What we do not know is how habitat and weather interact to produce variation in wild turkey populations. 

My research examines the interaction of habitat and weather to gain a more comprehensive understanding of factors that affect wild turkey population dynamics. To explore this interaction, I am analyzing wild turkey populations across a range of habitat and weather conditions from New York to Michigan to Iowa. I draw on harvest records and brood counts that provide greater than 30 years of data. These long-term data sets and the emergence of new statistical tools such as hierarchical Bayesian spatial analyses offer an excellent opportunity to improve forecasts of abundance in wild turkey populations. Such forecasting ability will help wildlife managers identify areas where land cover and weather combine to create conditions where harvest regulations can be more liberal and areas where harvest regulations need to be more conservative. The tangible product of this study will be maps of the regional potential to support different levels of harvest and closer tailoring of hunting regulations.



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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt