GPS backpacks could help reverse wild turkey decline

MU's Mitchell Weegman seeks to better understand the causes behind the decline of wild turkeys, an important game bird.

August 14, 2020


Pate McCuien: In recent years, the population of wild turkeys in the united states has been declining, and wildlife conservationists are wondering why. To get to the bottom of this mystery, University of Missouri researchers received a grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation in an effort to help better understand and reverse the trend of falling turkey populations.

McCuien: MU assistant professor Mitchell Weegman says that by monitoring factors such as turkey predators, food sources and weather, researchers hope to discover why turkey populations have been falling.

Weegman: “We are hoping to study turkeys in the summer, holistically, by examining weather conditions, which we know can influence poult survival, by looking at predator distribution, the predators are eating poults, we are also looking at insects as we know that insects are critical poult foods for poult growth.”

McCuien: The research team will attach extra small, GPS devices to the backs of wild turkeys to track them throughout missouri. In addition, weather stations and wildlife cameras will be set up throughout the state to allow them to cross-reference turkey locations with weather events, temperature, food availability and the presence of turkey predators.

Weegman: “These species have been observed for hundreds of years, thousands of years. They have been hunted over the same time period, so there are huge facets of society that really value these species and seeing these species, so when the populations are declining, it really puzzles people and is concerning.”

McCuien: By painting a more complete picture of the challenges these birds are facing, MU can help improve conservation efforts in the state and beyond.

McCuien: I’m Pate McCuien, with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

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