Tracking the Wild Turkey

January/February 2011

A biologist administers a vitamin E shot to offset the effects of capture-related stress.
Photo Credit: FWC

The wild turkey is hardly an unknown species in the U.S. In fact, legend has it that founding father Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey to the bald eagle as the country's national bird. Turkeys are a prime target in the spring and fall hunting seasons, and they are on many a menu during the holidays and beyond. The main subspecies found in Florida is the Osceola wild turkey, and Wildlife Research biologists set out in 2007 to learn how its habitat could be enhanced. They wondered whether habitat restoration efforts used for bobwhite quail might also benefit turkeys during nesting season. Biologists studied the characteristics of sites where turkeys reproduce and raise young to determine what type of environment and management is ideal.

Researchers let those responsible for nesting--female turkeys--provide them with the necessary information. At the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area in Osceola County and the privately owned Longino Ranch in Sarasota County, biologists tracked the turkeys by radio. From January to mid-March, they set up baited areas, captured the turkeys in rocket nets (netting propelled by metal capsules filled with packets of black powder and detonated by a small electric current), and fitted each bird with a small radio-transmitter backpack and a leg band. Researchers monitored each bird's radio signal at least three times a week from mid-March to mid-July. Project scientists also measured vegetation at the nesting locations, monitored nesting attempts, and tracked the surviving young for the first month after hatching. These data will be used to project how large an area the turkeys inhabit, how they use the area, and how it is affected by management activities such as burning and clearing brush.

FWC Facts:
After reaching sexual maturity at 4-7 years, female manatees give birth to an average of one calf every 2-3 years. The calf stays with its mother for up to 2 years.

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