Predators and Trapping

This Turkey Tuesday is about predators and trapping – predators are a natural part of a turkey’s world, and are the reason wild turkeys are so wary. Predation is the primary cause of death for hens, nests, and poults. Using data from >1000 nests across the south, we’ve seen that nest success (% that hatch) hovers around 21% on average annually – most nests are taken by predators. Of the 21% that hatch, ~ 35% of them produce at least 1 poult that survives the first month. So, <10% of nests produce a poult that lives to be a month old – producing poults is a challenge! The question is asked, should I begin trapping furbearers such as raccoons or coyotes to help my local turkey population? Here’s my thoughts. In short, if you have any interest in trapping, do it! Trapping furbearers during legal trapping seasons can be rewarding, gets you outside, and teaches you an attention to detail. In many ways, trapping simply makes you a better outdoors person. But be realistic in your expectations – removing one raccoon doesn’t equate to saving one turkey nest. And research has shown that predator management is most effective when 1) it’s paired with habitat management, 2) is intensive in space and time, 3) is extensive – meaning repeated, and 4) is practiced immediately before nesting season. In other words, spend as much time as possible improving habitat, understand that you’ll be most effective if you trap repeatedly and across larger than smaller areas, and try to trap as soon before nesting season as is practical and legal in your area. Also recognize that many predators eat turkey nests, and trapping will only allow you to focus efforts on reducing abundance of some of those predators. The take home is, trapping is just one of many tools in the turkey manager’s toolbox, so be realistic in your expectations when using that tool and pair it with other tools if you want to most benefit your local turkey population.

Picture of hen/poult and raccoon © Tes Randle Jolly

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