Capture-related mortality has been a notable risk in the handling of eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris). Our objective was to evaluate how environmental factors influence risk and identify physiological correlates that could be used to identify susceptible birds. During winter (January–March) 1995–97, 130 eastern wild turkey hens were captured in southeastern Oklahoma and radiocollared. Of those, 20 hens died ≤14 days of capture. Serum creatine kinase activity (CK; P < 0.01), body temperature (P < 0.01), processing time (P = 0.02), and ambient temperature (P < 0.01) showed a positive relationship with mortality that occurred within 14 days of capture. Plasma corticosterone concentration (P = 0.08) and relative humidity (P < 0.01) showed a negative relationship with mortalities that occurred within 14 days post-capture. Stepwise logistic regression selected CK activity, relative humidity, and ambient temperature as the best predictors of mortality within 14 days post-capture. Our data suggest that susceptible individuals may be identified from CK activity and that capture-related mortality may be minimized by establishing guidelines of when to curtail capture operations based on various weather conditions.
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Vol. 36 • No. 2