John Sherman on Predator Trapping to Help Turkey

John Sherman is a senior wildlife biologist with the New Mexico BLM. John helped us set up our quail waterers and feeding program. He was kind enough to offer these thoughts on predator trapping around our turkey nesting sites:

“Chris, just got back into the office and saw your series of emails.  It is good to hear from you and find that the turkey release was a big success.

As far as trapping coyotes and hopefully other predators–the purpose is to  give the nesting turkey some relief from predation. Removal of predators  (coyotes, fox, bobcat, skunk and racoon) during the nesting season from a  designated parameter around the nest should do just that.  In the early 80s  in the Sacramento mountains of NM, we had numerous hen turkeys collared for various periods of time depending on the longivity of the collar.

A couple  of things that I remember from that study- nest predators included coyotes,skunk, bears and bobcats. This was in the mixed conifer forest at 6,500 –  9,500 elevation.  Over the 3 years I worked on the project, the years that  included a wet spring, predation was higher.  Much like the effectiveness  of bird dogs hunting quail-when the vegetation is extremely dry the dogs  have a harder time picking up the scent.  During times when the veg is  moist, the scent of the animal hangs on the plant longer and generally the  success of the dogs finding quail goes up.  So with that said, a nesting  turkey going back and forth to water on a daily basis during a wet spring, leaves scent on the veg for a predator to follow right to the nest or  ambush between the nest and water source.
Also, we trapped predators (not specific-all predators) from within two  mile radius of active prairie chicken leks in Roswell, NM (it is documented  that female chickens will travel up to 2-miles from lek).  That year we had  a significant increase in sightings of lesser prairie chicken poults.  We  also had some very timely rainfall during the pre-nesting season which  provided good insect numbers and good forb production for brood rearing.  So what brought about the increased sightings–???  I believe that both the  predator control and rainfall increased nesting success of the chickens.  However, this hypothesis is only ancedotal on my part as I have no research  to back it up.
Just one last thought – Predators are opportunistic  They will take the easiest prey possible.  My recommendation would be to continue trapping all predators (not just coyotes) within say a mile of the area you feel is occupied by nesting turkey, during the rest of nesting season.

Take care Chris

John Sherman”

Posted by Chris Gill

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