Road-Based Surveys for Estimating Wild Turkey Density in the Texas Rolling Plains



Abstract: Line-transect-based distance sampling has been used to estimate density of several wild bird species including wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). We used inflatable turkey decoys during autumn (Aug-Nov) and winter (Dec-Mar) 2003-2005 at study sites in the Texas Rolling Plains, USA, to simulate Rio Grande wild turkey (M. g. intermedia) flocks. We evaluated detectability of flocks using logistic regression models. Our modeling effort suggested that distance to a flock and flock size played important roles in flock detectability. We also conducted surveys from roads for wild turkeys during November 2004-January 2006. The detection probability of decoy flocks was similar to wild turkey flocks during winter (decoy flock, 69.3 ± 6.2% [x̄ ± 95% CI]; wild turkey flock, 62.2 ± 18.3%) and autumn (decoy flock, 44.1 ± 5.1%; wild turkey flock, 44.7 ± 25.6%), which suggested that using decoys was appropriate for evaluating detectability of wild turkey flocks from roads. We conducted computer simulations to evaluate the performance of line-transect-based distance sampling and examined the power to detect trends in population change. Simulations suggested that population density may be underestimated by 12% during inter and 29% during autumn. Such bias occurred because of incomplete detectability of flocks near roads. Winter surveys tended to have less bias, lower relative variability, and greater power than did autumn surveys. During winter surveys, power was sufficient (≥0.80) to detect a 10-25% change in population density in 8-12 years using ≥100 16-km transects or ≥80 32-km transects. We concluded line-transect-based distance sampling from roads is an efficient, effective, and inexpensive technique for monitoring Rio Grande wild turkey populations across large scales.