This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Effects of Prescribed Fire on Wild Turkeys in the Talladega National Forest

Date

2021-12-02

Author

McInnis, Mariah

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis

Department

Forestry and Wildlife Science

Restriction Status

EMBARGOED

Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available

12-02-2022

Abstract

Previous research on the effects of prescribed fire on wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) has been primarily conducted on areas with burn units <300 ha in size. However, large-scale burning (i.e., >1,000 ha burn units) has become more commonplace, and information on the effects of this practice on turkeys is limited. Therefore, we examined the effects of large-scale prescribed fire on nest predation rates and occupancy of wild turkeys on the Talladega National Forest in northeast Alabama. We distributed 232 artificial turkey nests across burn units that varied in time since fire and positioned a camera trap over each nest to document nest predation during spring 2019–2020. We also used 180 baited camera sites to estimate occupancy of turkeys across the landscape during summer of each year. We observed an overall nest predation rate of 25% (58/230 nests) but found no relationship between time since fire and nest predation, likely due to high canopy cover (>90%) that limited response of understory vegetation to fire. Both male and female occupancy was greater in units burned in the current year, but female occupancy was negatively associated with areas burned 1-2 years prior. These results are contradictory to some prior reports, and offer evidence that vegetation, and therefore wildlife habitat, responses to prescribed fire are site dependent.