Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conferences


Date of this Version

September 1989


Habitat use and food habits of wild turkeys (Meleagris pallopavo) were studied during summer 1988-89 in southwestern Wisconsin in order to address growing concerns that turkeys cause considerable crop damage. Intensive telemetric monitoring in 1988 suggested that turkeys used crop fields (corn-alfalfa-oats) at a low rate compared to forest types. Brooded hens used forest habitats less and field habitats more than broodless hens and gobblers. Brooded hens appeared to use forest and crop field habitats less and non-crop fields (pasture and idle) more than expected. Broodless hens and gobblers appeared to use forest types and non-crop fields more and crop fields less than expected. Crops of 3 hens collected to determine what turkeys are eating while feeding in agricultural fields contained 79% plant matter (mostly oats) and 21% animal matter (mostly grasshoppers). Crops of 15 poults similarly collected contained 87% animal matter (mostly grasshoppers) and 13% plant matter (mostly oats). Brood flocks in southwestern Wisconsin appear to be utilizing crop fields for insects.