Auburn researchers study turkeys and habitat for better understanding

Researchers under the direction of Dr. Will Gulsby, of Auburn University, recorded data from 490 hunter-donated gobbler carcasses this past spring, bringing the team’s two-year total to 910 carcasses collected for study. Separately, his team has also made careful studies of 1,440 vegetation plots selected from key wild turkey habitat in locations statewide. Together, the information gained is expected to help build the understanding of how variable types of habitat impacts the number and health of turkeys in the wild.

For the carcass studies, called necropsies, Gulsby and his team receive the portion of a gobbler carcass each hunter planned to discard. They collect valuable data from each of these. They weigh, measure and sample each bird’s internal organs to form a statistically robust baseline population sample for the health and fertility of Alabama’s wild turkey population. 

The habitat study gathers information on the places wild turkeys live, recording a long list of specific attributes in data collected on multiple visits. This spring’s studies gathered data on 96 habitat units containing a total of 1,440 vegetation plots. Understanding what is available in each example of habitat, how that changes through the course of the year, and how that has changed over the course of several years will help us more clearly understand what wild turkeys have and what they need.  This is a classic example of determining habitat use and availability for our beloved wild turkeys.

Analysis of data from each of these efforts is expected to be completed this fall. 

A better understanding of both of these factors will allow land managers and wildlife professionals make more effective management decisions to secure the turkeys’ future.

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