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Documenting Wild Turkey Breeding Patterns in North Carolina with Camera Traps

Chase Carey1,*, Ashley Lohr2, and Roland Kays1,2

1Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27607. 2North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC 2760. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 21, Issue 3 (2022): 220–234

Abstract
Meleagris gallopavo L. (Wild Turkey) is a valued game species that is sensitive to the timing of hunting seasons, which generally overlap with breeding, but can vary spatially or temporally. Here, we analyze the timing of turkey reproduction across North Carolina by examining camera-trap images collected from 527 sites over 3 years. We found a peak of male strutting behavior at Julian week 13 and, based on the age of poults photographed later in the summer, estimated the peak of egg hatching at week 22. The timing of strutting significantly varied across years but not across the 3 ecoregions of the state. Understanding turkey breeding and reproductive chronology can be useful when agencies set hunting seasons to balance the interest of hunters while minimizing potential impacts to reproduction.

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