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PACIFIC NORTHWEST WILD TURKEY RESEARCH

Diet and Seed Dispersal Capabilities of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in the Pacific Northwest

I am a graduate student at Oregon State University conducting a two-year research project to determine wild turkey diet and help understand the role turkeys play in Pacific Northwest ecosystems by their foraging behavior.  My research is being conducted in conjuncture with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the US Forest Service with support from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and the Oregon Hunters Association (OHA).  Turkeys provide significant recreational opportunities for hunters, generate additional revenue for habitat management, and provide economic benefit for Oregon and Washington communities.  Many studies have been conducted on turkey foraging habits throughout North America but there is a lack of information on the diet of turkeys in the Pacific Northwest.  Information about diet will help improve habitat management programs in both states and help us understand the role turkeys play in Northwest ecosystems.

HUNTER AND VOLUNTEER INFORMATION

Since the spring of 2009 we have had great support and participation by Oregon and Washington turkey hunters.  Across both states turkey hunters have been submitting the crops of their harvested birds.  We are continuing to request the help of Oregon and Washington turkey hunters by asking that you donate the crop of each bird harvested during the fall and spring turkey seasons.  Collections will continue through the spring season of 2011, so please continue to support the project by donating the crops from harvested birds in future hunts.  Participation by hunters will provide greater geographic coverage helping to assure that our data are relevant to wide areas in both states.  This is a unique opportunity for turkey hunters to contribute data to organized research that seeks to improve management.  

This link outlines how to remove and submit the crop of a harvested bird.  Please include the location (nearest city or GMU) and date of each bird harvested.  Crops should be frozen and dropped off at any WDFW/ODFW office, NWTF local chapter meeting or postage-paid envelopes can be requested via e-mail at turkey.project@oregonstate.edu.

We are currently collecting fecal samples across both states during the fall to investigate the ability of turkeys to disperse viable plant seeds.  This has mostly been accomplished by myself, research technicians, ODFW and WDFW staff and most importantly, volunteers.  This has provided a sample set that covers an extensive range of habitat.  If you would like to get involved please contact me at turkey.project@oregonstate.edu.

PROJECT SUMMARY

The goal of my research is to quantify food habits of wild turkeys in the Pacific Northwest and evaluate their potential impact on native ecosystems.  Results from this project will expressly meet research priorities outlined in both the Oregon and Washington turkey management plans, helping strengthen turkey management in both states.

To determine diet, we will be collecting male and female turkeys during fall/winter, spring and summer.  Diet will be determined by examining turkey crops, an expanded section of the esophagus used to store food.  By removing the crop from each bird and sorting, counting, and weighing food items, we can describe the turkey diet.  Understanding diet in Oregon and Washington will allow managers and land owners to enhance turkey habitat, identify possible periods of food limitation and better manage important food sources.   Seed dispersal data will provide a means of understanding if turkeys might be important dispersal agents for native or exotic species.

To evaluate the role of turkeys as seed dispersers, fecal samples will be collected from roosts and high density feeding areas.  Samples are being collected during the fall/winter season, when mature seed is likely available in abundance.  Intact seeds remaining in samples will be evaluated for viability through testing at Oregon State’s Seed Laboratory.  Seed viability provides an indication of whether or not a seed could germinate.

STUDY AREA

Study regions include 4 areas in OR and WA characterized by high density turkey populations, representing various Pacific Northwest ecotypes.  Study areas include; region 1 (northeast WA), region 2 (south-central WA/north-central OR), region 3 (northeast OR/southeast WA) and region 4 (southwest OR).  These counties will be focus areas for data collection but crop collections will also occur statewide.

Study Area

CONTACT

turkey.project@oregonstate.edu
Sara Paroulek 
Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
Oregon State University
104 Nash Hall
Corvallis OR 97331

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