The lack of adequate documentation of wildlife translocations, particularly details regarding the source stock used, have potentially serious implications for wildlife management. Poor documentation of translocations may lead to unintentional mixing of distinct types, potentially causing problems for future management, design of harvest programs, and evolutionary stability. In Kansas, we employed molecular tools and assignment methods to uncover the cryptic distribution of wild turkey subspecies resulting from decades of poorly documented translocations. Pure forms of Eastern (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) and Rio Grande turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) remain in many portions of the state, and future translocation programs now have the option to keep these distinct by prohibiting translocations between regions containing different subspecies. In addition, we documented 3 zones of hybridization: 1) at the interface between Eastern and Rio Grande subspecies, 2) in southwest Kansas where immigrant Merriam's turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo merriami) are mixing with translocated Rio Grande turkeys, and 3) surrounding an undocumented translocation of Eastern turkeys within a region characterized primarily by Rio Grande turkeys. The DNA-based techniques employed in this study were extremely informative tools for characterizing the distribution of wild turkeys in Kansas and suggest that such tools could be applied in a multitude of similar situations in other wildlife species.
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Vol. 70 • No. 6