There is interest in expanding eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) populations north of their current range. We hypothesized that winter survival and food availability are primary determinants in setting the northern extent of wild turkey distribution. To test our hypothesis, we translocated wild turkey females north of their present range into central Minnesota, USA, and compared survival in areas with supplemental food in the form of corn food plots versus areas with no supplemental food. During 2 winters with below-average snow, winter survival was higher for females with supplemental food. In one winter with above-average snow depths, survival was extremely low even with supplemental food. Supplemental food could augment survival during mild winters if wildlife managers arrange with farmers to, annually, retain standing corn near roosting habitat, but food plots may only partially offset effects of deep snow. Managers should critically evaluate northern habitats, long-term costs of sustained feeding, and potential outcomes of concentrating animals and introducing wild animals into new ecosystems. Winter survival may delimit the northern range of wild turkeys, though annual survival rates may also be important and need further research.
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Vol. 71 • No. 6