Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Craig A. Harper

Committee Members

David S. Buckley, Cathryn H. Greenberg


Optimum brood cover for wild turkeys is composed of herbaceous cover <0.5 m tall that conceals poults from predators and allows travel underneath. On tracts of hardwoods where early succession stages and young forest cover are scarce, a lack of understory development can limit turkey populations. Additionally, retaining oak on these sites after logging or habitat enhancement is important to provide future timber value and hard mast. I compared the effects of silvicultural practices (multiple fires [F], shelterwood cutting [S], shelterwood cutting with one fire [SF], retention cutting [R], retention cutting with multiple fires [RF], retention cutting with herbicide application [RH], and retention cutting with herbicide application and multiple fires [RHF]) with controls (C) on wild turkey brood habitat and oak regeneration in upland central hardwood stands. I measured structure and food resources to quantify the quality of wild turkey brood cover. Shelterwood and retention cuts increased photosynthetically active radiation. However, herbaceous, vine, and bramble groundcover did not increase. Woody regeneration was greater following canopy reduction and understory disturbance compared to C. Disturbance (fire or herbicide) was required to maintain vegetation at the ideal height for wild turkey broods. Soft mast production increased after canopy reduction with and without fire. Invertebrate biomass did not increase following any treatment, but availability exceeded the dietary requirements of a wild turkey brood. I also counted stem density of oak and competitor regeneration in response to these treatments. Seedlings <12.7 cm were ephemeral. S and SF had a greater density of oak stems >1.4 m than C and F. However, S and SF also had the greatest density of oak >1.4 m prior to treatment. Canopy reduction increased oak competitors, but prescribed fire reduced competitors. I recommend canopy reduction, followed by repeated low-intensity prescribed fire to maintain low groundcover to enhance brood habitat for wild turkeys in mature closed-canopy upland hardwood stands.

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