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Potential Barriers to Turkey Movement

This Turkey Tuesday is about potential barriers to turkey movement – in this case fences. As turkey hunters, most of us have likely experienced the frustration of a bird coming to us and hanging up on a barrier – things that a turkey could easily cross if they were so inclined. I once had a bird in Kansas that refused to cross a double strand barbed wire fence, yet he twice hopped up on a fence post and gobbled at me before hopping back down on his side instead of mine. Maddening! Anyway, research on genetics continues to show that turkeys don’t move about the landscape and mingle as freely as we’d think, and movement data from GPS-marked birds often shows the same. Turkeys are highly mobile, can walk many miles, and obviously have the ability to fly – but left to their own devices, they may not use those abilities in ways we’d assume. For example, the second image shows point locations of a jake in Alabama that is part of an ongoing research project directed by the Auburn Deer Lab focused on turkeys and their interactions with feral pigs. If you look closely, you’ll note that many locations are adjacent to a right-of-way – that happens to be a high-fence that encloses a private property – high fences are fairly common in many areas of the US. These locations cover March to May, and collectively the bird maintained a range of just under 1000 acres – but he didn’t cross that fence despite the fact that he could have easily. I’ve observed behaviors like this with turkeys on properties where high fences existed, but I’ve also seen birds that refused to cross other low fences as well. The take home is, turkeys clearly perceive potential barriers to their movements differently than we do. Anyone seen a turkey fail to cross a barrier that didn’t really look like a barrier?

Picture of hen © Tes Randle Jolly

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