Eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) in the Ouachita Highland Province of westcentral Arkansas have some of the largest reported home ranges for this subspecies. Previous research on wild turkeys has generally attributed large home-range size to forage abundance or quality. However, limitations in reproduction by wild turkeys in the Ouachitas may influence home-range size and habitat selection. To discern factors governing home-range size, I examined habitat use by 54 female wild turkeys from 1993 to 1996. Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) and mixed pine–hardwood sawtimber were selected over other overstory cover types, whereas blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), red maple (Acer rubrum) and white oak (Quercus alba) were favored in the understory. Mean fixed kernel home-range size during the breeding season was 18.9 km2, the largest reproductive period home range reported for the eastern subspecies. Home-range size varied as a function of age, body mass, reproductive status and the structure of selected habitats. Subadult females occupied larger home ranges (x̄ = 32.0 km2, se = 7.0) than adult females (16.3 ± 1.7 km2) and moved greater distances between nest sites in subsequent years (8.9 ± 1.8 km vs. 2.4 ± 1.1 km, respectively). After removing effects of age, heavier females occupied smaller home ranges than lighter females. Nesting individuals occupied less area than non-nesters, and female turkeys that occupied smaller areas avoided stands of seedlings and saplings in favor of mature poletimber. Taken together, effects of physiological condition and experience influenced home-range size in female wild turkeys in westcentral Arkansas.
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Vol. 145 • No. 2