In northern areas of their expanded range, information on Merriam's turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo merriami) is lacking, specifically pertaining to wintering behavior and factors associated with winter habitat selection. Forest managers need detailed quantification of the effects of logging and other management practices on wintering habitats needed by Wild Turkeys and other wildlife. Therefore, we examined winter habitat selection patterns within ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests and determined factors associated with use of farmsteads by Merriam's turkeys in the southern Black Hills, South Dakota. We radio-marked 86 female Merriam's turkeys (70 adults and 16 yearlings) and monitored them during winter (1 December–31 March), 2001–2004. Female Wild Turkeys used recently burned pine forest less than expected but selected farmsteads and stands of mature ponderosa pine (<70% overstory canopy cover, >22.9 cm diameter at breast height [DBH] trees) for foraging sites. Within forests, female Wild Turkeys selected foraging sites with less understory vegetation and visual obstruction, and larger-diameter ponderosa pine. Ponderosa pine seed abundance varied among years, and pine seeds were most abundant in stands of 30–35 cm DBH with basal area of 22–28 m2 · ha−1. Abundance of pine seeds may have influenced use of farmsteads by Wild Turkeys, more so than ambient temperatures or snow depth. In the southern Black Hills, management should emphasize open- to mid-canopy and mature-structural-stage pine stands, where seed production was greatest. During winters when mast from pine is unavailable, farmsteads likely provide nutritional supplementation and may be important for maintaining Merriam's turkey populations.
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Vol. 67 • No. 2