The southeastern portion of the Edwards Plateau of Texas, historically a stronghold of Rio Grande wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia), has seen a decline in turkey numbers since the 1970s. Because adult and juvenile survival are key parameters affecting turkey population dynamics, we used radiotagged individuals to compare Rio Grande wild turkey survival in areas of suspected decline versus stable portions of the Edwards Plateau during 2001–2003. Reproductive period (breeding or nonbreeding) had an impact on survival, but differences in age, sex, or region did not influence survival. Model averaged estimates of monthly survival were 0.97 (SE = 0.005) for nonbreeding periods and 0.96 (SE = 0.007) for breeding periods. Our results indicate juvenile and adult survival in the declining areas was similar to survival in the stable areas of the Edwards Plateau. This suggests causes of the decline might be associated with differences during other life-history stages, such as nest success or poult survival, although we cannot rule out the possibility juvenile or adult survival contributed to the decline in the past. This situation demonstrates why wildlife managers should be cognizant of the implications of initiating long-term monitoring programs after changes in population status occur, rather than initiating them in expectation of such changes.
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Vol. 71 • No. 1