Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist • 50(1): June 2018


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


We investigated wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) distribution in prairie landscapes in North Dakota using occupancy modeling in two stages. In 2012, we extensively surveyed ecoregions across the state and in 2013, intensively surveyed the ecoregion with the highest probability of occupancy. Occupancy models from the statewide survey indicated wild turkeys were sparse in ecoregions with primarily agricultural landscapes, were found associated with wooded riparian cover, and found most frequently in the Missouri River Plateau ecoregion. In the Missouri River Plateau, our occupancy models identified that an additive model including mean patch area of cropland fields and spatial aggregation of forest patches best explained occupancy. Our models also suggested that variation in detection probability was best explained by the time (from sunrise) that an individual survey was conducted. Our models indicated that the Turtle Mountain Ecoregion provides suitable turkey habitat but is too isolated and therefore not occupied. Future trap and transplant efforts of wild turkeys should focus on selecting relocation sites with a moderate, connected patches of forest cover and characterized by smaller (< 200 ha) patches of agricultural fields. Future monitoring plans for wild turkey in North Dakota should consider the effects of survey timing on detection probability.