Upland Game II

Contributed Oral

Spatial and Temporal Variation in Survival of Female Wild Turkeys
David Moscicki, Christopher Moorman, Bret A. Collier, Christopher Kreh, Krishna Pacifici

Female survival often is the vital rate that contributes most to population growth of upland gamebirds such as wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), so investigation of the factors that affect survival is critical to direct long-term management. Female wild turkey mortality risk may vary spatially and temporally, possibly in relation to land cover and the individual’s behavioral state. We radio-tracked 240 female turkeys from 2020 to 2021 to estimate survival and determine factors that influenced mortality risk across study areas in each of the 3 major ecoregions in North Carolina. We constructed a Bayesian hierarchical model using the R2jags package to estimate survival. We parameterized the models using covariates likely to influence survival, including year (2020, 2021), age-class (juvenile, adult), behavioral state (non-breeding period, pre-nesting, incubation, and brooding), land cover (percent cover of forest, shrubland, and open vegetation, and edge density) in the individual’s home range, and ecoregion (coast, Piedmont, or mountain). We used continuous-time movement models to estimate 95% utilization distributions (UDs) as the home range for each individual, and calculated land cover within the UDs using imagery from the National Land Cover Database with program R. Landscape characteristics varied considerably across the 3 study ecoregions and more specifically among individual female turkey home ranges. Female turkey mortality risk typically is greatest during the incubation and brooding periods. Because early successional vegetation and edge provide the highest quality nesting and brooding cover, we predicted that female survival would be greatest for individuals with greater amounts of open and shrubland vegetation and greater amounts of edge density in the home range and that survival would be greatest in the coastal ecoregion where open vegetation was most prevalent. Our work provides novel information about spatial and temporal variation in female wild turkey survival across an extensive longitudinal gradient and over multiple years.

Reliance on CRP for Breeding by Ring-Necked Pheasants in Kansas
Alixandra Godar, Adela Piernicky, David Haukos, Jeffery Prendergast

Ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) populations are declining across the Midwest. Each Midwestern state offers a unique combination of agricultural practices combined with conservation efforts. In Kansas, former prairie is now cropland and isolated grassland patches interspersed with tracts of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Landowners are encouraged to plant and manage CRP to provide nesting and brood-rearing habitat to increase annual recruitment by pheasants, but the effect of landscape composition on reproductive rates remains largely unknown. We captured and fitted female pheasants (n = 122) with VHF transmitters within close proximity to spring cover crop treatment fields, CRP, cropland, and native grassland in three counties in Kansas. Cover crop mixes included Chick Magnet (a warm-season, broad-leafed forb mix designed for precocial chicks), GreenSpring (an agricultural forage mix with cool-season peas and oats), and a Custom Mix (designed to be adaptive with 10 species). Nests (n = 85) were monitored remotely and checked when females left the nest unattended to determine fate. Brood (n = 18) locations were triangulated daily (as conditions allowed) and flushed weekly to count the number of chicks present. Native grassland had the greatest daily nest survival rate (0.950, SE = 0.024) but only 7 nests. The largest proportion of nests were found in CRP (45, 53%), which had the second greatest survival rate (0.937, SE = 0.011). Brood locations were almost equally divided among the cover types: cover crops, cropland, CRP, and grass (n = 244 locations). However, the cover types were disproportionately present on the landscape. Broods selected for cover crops, which comprised <5% of the landscape while crops comprised of >40% of the landscape. Pheasants select CRP for nesting in contemporary landscapes but recruitment (i.e., brood use) benefits with additional diversity of cover types in the landscape.

Nonbreeding Season Survival and Movement of Northern Bobwhites in Northeast Colorado
Joseph Wolske, Larkin A. Powell, Adam Behney

Northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) have experienced rangewide population declines and are listed as a Tier 2 species of conservation concern in Colorado. Recent harvest data from northeastern Colorado suggests fewer bobwhites, and managers aim to identify the vital rates by which population growth rate may be limited to guide management actions.  Although  bobwhite populations are sensitive to changes in reproductive factors, recent work suggests that some populations can be sensitive to adult nonbreeding season survival.  We monitored bobwhites in northeastern Colorado for two nonbreeding seasons to estimate survival . We used known-fate models in program MARK to assess variation in seasonal and weekly survival with time trend, age, sex, and body mass at capture as covariates. The population of bobwhites was substantially lower during the second year of our study, and survival varied between years. For both seasons (2019-2020 and 2020-2021), we found that a time trend grouping weeks into three periods explained variation in survival (wi=0.774 and wi = 0.622, respectively). Nonbreeding season survival in the 2020-2021 season (26 weeks) was Ŝ = 0.243 (95 % CI = 0.165-0.342). Survival was lower during the second season (2020-2021) with Ŝ = 0.093 (95 % CI = 0.031-0.250). Sex, age, and body mass did not influence survival in either year of our study. In addition to monitoring survival, we tracked daily movement. We found an average daily distance moved of 215.6 meters. We used a mixed effects model to investigate variation in daily movement. Our highest ranked   model was our daily weather index score + season of study model (wi = 0.999) showing that bobwhites moved less on days when there was more snow and temperatures were lower. Our research aims to provide information on bobwhite demographics and movement to land managers to assist them in management action decision making.

Identifying Factors Influencing Eastern Wild Turkey Productivity and Recruitment in Wisconsin Utilizing Snapshot Wisconsin Trail Camera Images
Hannah Butkiewicz, Shelby Truckenbrod, Jason Riddle, Jennifer Stenglein, Chris Pollentier, Emily Buege Donovan

To maintain healthy eastern wild turkey populations (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris), we must use science to inform management decisions. Wisconsin has previously relied on a ten-week brood survey to monitor wild turkey productivity and recruitment, but this survey was discontinued due to data collection limitations. Wildlife managers are currently exploring alternative methods to assess statewide wild turkey productivity and recruitment, including the use of Snapshot Wisconsin, a trail camera-based citizen science wildlife monitoring project. We reviewed more than 270,000 Snapshot Wisconsin wild turkey trail camera images from > 2,000 sites, April-August 2016-2020. Each photographed turkey was classified by sex and age class to determine the average brood size and poult-to-hen ratios in Wisconsin. Poults were further categorized into three age classes based on physical and feather characteristics. Our preliminary analyses indicated differences in poult-to-hen ratios between months (May-August) and years (2017-2019) but no difference between Turkey Management Zones (TMZ) and landscape cover (forest vs. open). As a result, our current research investigates how spatial and temporal covariates of interest affect poult-to-hen ratios. Mixed effect linear models were developed with the camera site location as a random effect. The strongest mixed effect models were those with the fixed effect of month and county. These data suggest that wild turkey management decisions should be made at the county rather than the TMZ level. Additionally, managers should consider the month from which data were was collected.

Grazing as a Tool to Manage Northern Bobwhite Habitat at the Northwest Edge of Their Range
Adam Behney

Many wildlife species are reliant on periodic disturbance to maintain vegetation heterogeneity.  Heterogeneity is necessary to support species like northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), which are a species of conservation concern and require different vegetation for nesting, brood-rearing, and protection from predators and extreme weather.  In northeastern Colorado few disturbance options exist to manage bobwhite habitat other than domestic livestock grazing.  High-intensity short-duration grazing has shown promise as a mode of disturbance for bobwhite habitat in other regions.  Using a randomized block design, I tested whether spring high-intensity short-duration grazing could improve bobwhite habitat in northeastern Colorado.  Specifically, I monitored bobwhite nest and brood survival and habitat selection in relation to grazing treatments over 3 years.  I found that grazing had no effect on nest or brood survival or brood habitat selection, but bobwhites selected against grazed plots for nesting.  Nest survival was negatively influenced by percent litter around the nest, and bobwhites selected nest sites with more grass cover and less bare ground.  Broods selected habitat with less bare ground and more woody vegetation.  Grazing affected vegetation immediately after grazing, but these effects weakened or disappeared by the end of the growing season.  One exception was forbs, which tended to be more abundant on grazed plots throughout the growing season.  Overall, I found neutral effects of grazing on bobwhite demographics or habitat selection and neutral to positive benefits to the vegetation.  Spring high-intensity short-duration grazing does not appear to be an effective tool to manage bobwhite habitat in northeastern Colorado.

The Impacts of SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) on Eastern Wild Turkey Hunting in South-Central Tennessee
Lindsey Phillips, Vincent Johnson, David Buehler, Craig Harper, Neelam Poudyal, Roger Shields, Roger Applegate

In late 2019 and early 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus caused a worldwide pandemic. During this pandemic, isolation and quarantine orders required businesses to close and lay-off numerous workers, enabling individuals to spend an increased amount of time outdoors. In the southeastern United States, the pandemic restrictions coincided with the spring wild turkey hunting season. In Tennessee, the spring 2020 wild turkey harvest was 40,137 birds, the largest harvest on record since the start of mandatory reporting. This increase in harvest appeared to be related to the COVID-19 restrictions. In an effort to quantify the impacts of COVID-19 on the spring harvest rate, hunter effort, harvest, and satisfaction surveys were mailed to 2,000 hunters within Bedford, Giles, Lawrence, Maury, and Wayne counties each year from 2017-2020. When asked how COVID-19 affected the amount of time an individual hunted in 2020 (n = 268), 16% of respondents stated it increased the amount of time they hunted, 9% of respondents stated it decreased the amount of time they hunted, and 75% of respondents stated it had no effect. The average number of birds harvested per day per survey respondent, birds harvested per trip per survey respondent, or hours expended to harvest a bird per survey respondent did not differ among pre-COVID-19 (2017-2019) and COVID-19 (2020) years. We detected no apparent shift in the percentage of individuals who harvested 1, 2, 3, or 4+ birds among pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 years. These results imply that the increase in birds harvested in 2020 was not a result of current hunters harvesting more birds because of an increase in time available to hunt, but rather likely a result of an increase in the number of new hunters or previously licensed hunters returning to the sport.

Comparing Jake-To-Tom Ratios Determined by Trail Camera Images and Spring Harvest Data in Wisconsin
Shelby Truckenbrod, Hannah Butkiewicz, Jennifer Stenglein, Chris Pollentier, Jason Riddle

The eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) is an important game species in Wisconsin. Though extirpated from the state in the late 1800s, successful reintroductions of wild turkeys in the 1970s have led to population sizes sustainable for harvest. Traditionally, male age ratios within Wisconsin’s turkey management zones (TMZs) are estimated by harvest. Snapshot Wisconsin, a citizen-science based trail camera program, may offer an alternative method for estimating male wild turkey age structure. Our objective is to determine jake-to-tom ratios statewide and for each TMZ using trail camera data and compare them to ratios determined by spring harvest. We reviewed and classified more than 157,000 Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera images of wild turkeys from April to May 2016-2020 according to sex and age class. Over 82,000 of these images had one or more male turkeys. We will use simple linear regression to model the relationship between jake-to-tom ratios estimated by trail cameras and spring harvest. We hypothesize that an inverse relationship exists and expect smaller jake-to-tom harvest ratios to be followed by larger jake-to-tom trail camera ratios due to selective harvest of toms. We believe our research will improve our understanding of spring harvest effects on Wisconsin’s wild turkey populations.

Site Prioritization for American Woodcock Management by Comparing Breeding and Migratory Habitat Distribution Models
Liam Berigan, Alex Fish, Amber Roth, Lisa Williams, Kenneth Duren, Erik Blomberg

The American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) has experienced a 2% population decline per year since the 1960s, presumably due to habitat loss. Woodcock habitat use has been found to differ between migratory, breeding, and nonbreeding ranges, but technological limitations have prohibited researchers from determining overlap between breeding and migratory habitats of woodcock at a landscape scale. The decreasing size of satellite transmitters now facilitates tracking woodcock throughout their full annual cycle, allowing us to make this comparison. We addressed this question as a part of the Eastern Woodcock Migration Research Cooperative (EWMRC), a collaborative effort between 34 federal, state, and nonprofit organizations to investigate woodcock migration. The EWMRC has deployed over 420 GPS transmitters on woodcock throughout 14 states and 3 Canadian provinces since 2017. Those transmitters recorded over 21,800 GPS locations, including 247 migratory stopover locations within the state of Pennsylvania. We used these stopover locations, in conjunction with landscape composition and configuration layers at 1 – 5 km scales, to create a migratory habitat model for Pennsylvania using a Random Forest classifier. We then compared this migratory habitat model to a breeding season habitat model based on USFWS American Woodcock Singing Ground Survey data collected between 2016 and 2020. We combined these layers to rank state game lands based on their potential use by woodcock during both the breeding and migratory seasons, and to determine which game lands allowed for maximum occupancy during both periods. Our results demonstrate the utility of considering habitat use during multiple stages of the annual cycle to prioritize habitat for conservation of woodcock and other migratory bird species.

Contributed Oral
Location: Virtual Date: November 4, 2021 Time: 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm