Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | October 1, 2019
From Missouri Conservationist: October 2019

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Wildlife Management

Turkey Trapping

For the past five years, MDC biologists have been working with researchers at the University of Missouri, University of Montana, and University of Washington to study the survival and reproduction of wild turkeys in four north Missouri counties.

“We conducted the research almost exclusively on private lands, and it would not have been possible without the graciousness of hundreds of Missouri landowners who allowed us access to their properties,” said Jason Isabelle, MDC’s cervid program supervisor.

After capturing wild turkeys during the winter, banding them, and fitting them with radio-transmitters, researchers monitored the birds to determine how successful they were at nesting and rearing young. Fieldwork ended in spring 2019, and now the team is analyzing data and preparing reports.

Although nesting success was reasonably good during most years, Isabelle said, poult survival was poor in all but one year of the study. “We’re not exactly sure what was causing such low survival rates for those young turkeys,” he said. “This is certainly something that needs further investigation and research.”

Isabelle said that the percentage of banded turkey harvested during the hunting seasons was relatively low. “On average, about one in four banded adult gobblers was harvested during the spring hunting season — harvest rates were considerably lower for jakes.” Preliminary data indicates that less than 1 percent of the hens banded during the project were harvested during the fall hunting season.

Researchers will use the study’s data to build population models. “These models will become the primary way that we estimate turkey numbers and monitor trends in their population,” Isabelle said.

Turkey Numbers at a Glance

  • 11 Average number of eggs in a wild turkey nest
  • 28 Approximate number of days hen turkeys spend incubating their eggs
  • 390,000 Estimated wild turkey population size in Missouri
  • 1954 Year turkey Restoration in Missouri began
  • 1960 Year Missouri’s modern spring turkey hunting season started

Project Funding

Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Funds and grants from the Missouri State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation helped fund the project.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler