Because quantity and quality of roosting habitat can affect Merriam's Wild Turkey (Meleagns gallopavo merriami) distribution, we described habitat characteristics of Merriam's turkey roost sites in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. Varying proportions of Merriam's turkeys in the southern Black Hills depended on supplemental feed from livestock operations during the 2 winters of our study, whereas the remainder wintered in forested habitat away from supplemental feed. We compared characteristics of roost habitat occupied by female turkeys from both groups. We located turkeys with radio-transmitters in the early morning and late evening to find roost sites. Female Merriam's turkeys in the southern Black Hills roosted exclusively in ponderosa pine trees, primarily on the upper portions of ridges on easterly aspects. Generally, trees >30 cm diameter at breast height (dbh) were chosen for roosting, but turkeys also roosted in trees with smaller dbh. During winter months, turkeys that relied on supplemental feeding roosted adjacent to the ranch-farmstead where the supplemental food was located. Generally, these turkeys used the same roost site(s) throughout the winter, whereas turkeys that remained in the forest during winter used multiple roost sites. We suggest maintaining stands of trees >30 cm dbh on the upper portions of easterly aspects to provide suitable roosting habitat for female Merriam's Wild Turkeys in the southern Black Hills.
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Vol. 69 • No. 1