Hybrid Wild Turkey Habitat Use in Utah: Implications for Agricultural Conflicts
The Utah wild turkey management plan identifies insufficient winter habitat (limited food resources) and low-quality breeding and summer habitat as high and medium priority concerns, respectively, for wild turkey management in Utah. Along the Escalante River, over 70 miles of riparian areas were treated to remove Russian olive and tamarisk, which could improve breeding and summer habitats. A challenge to wild turkey management is predicting how turkeys may adapt to habitat changes. We studied the seasonal habitat use of wild turkeys in Escalante, Utah to determine their basic habitat use and movements, and their use of treated areas. Turkeys had large summer home range sizes (females = 151.1 ±41.5 km2, males = 147.4 ±60.7 km2), suggesting fragmented habitats and limited resources. Summer habitat use showed two distinct patterns: use of lowland habitats along the Escalante River or use of higher elevation ponderosa, aspen, and pinyon habitats. Male and female turkeys frequently used treated pinyon-juniper, treated developed areas (farms, rural housing), and treated agricultural areas in the winter. The proximity of treated natural areas and available roost sites to agricultural fields could lead to conflicts with landowners in the region, particularly if agricultural crops are used by turkeys to replace Russian olive as a food source in the winter.