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Abstract

Because ground-nesting wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) may sustain high incidences of nest predation in western Virginia, determining their predators is essential to understanding risk and managing the birds. Our study investigated potential predators of wild turkey nests at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, New River Unit (RFAAP; Pulaski Co., in western Virginia). Here, we established 8 artificial nests during the breeding season for wild turkey (March-April, 2017), and documented predators via game cameras. Thirty-one species of mammals and birds visited the nests over the 31-day study. Nest predation was verified 56 times across 6 species, including coyotes (Canis latrans), a relatively new addition to the RFAAP. Most egg loss was attributed to mesocarnivores—raccoons (Procyon lotor), striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), and Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana)—but eastern fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) and American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) were predators, too. Because these nests were artificial and unguarded, further studies will elucidate predation risks to wild turkeys at the RFAAP. The RFAAP offers the unique opportunity to further study this predator-prey relationship, as hunting for wild turkey and the predators recognized in this study is not permitted on the property.

Comments

This is the online version published ahead of print. Initial and revised submissions: August 2017.

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