Between 1979 and 2006, over 7,000 eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) from 16 states were translocated to east Texas in an attempt to restore a stable, huntable population. Although current populations are stable in some areas and a spring male-only hunting season was opened in 1995, turkey density in the region remains low and large areas of apparently suitable habitat are not occupied. The long-term effects of the extensive translocations and current levels of connectivity among various populations are unknown. We used microsatellite DNA analysis to assess the influence of translocations on current genetic structure and gene flow in eastern wild turkeys. The influence of translocations was clearly evident and reflected historical contributions from the Midwest and southeastern United States. The east Texas population consisted of 3 distinct genetic clusters. Despite a lack of clear geographic barriers and nearly contiguous forest cover in much of the east Texas landscape, regional gene flow among clusters appeared to be limited. Diversity in the regional population remains high, but we recommend that regulations reflect the current population structure and that long-term efforts should be made to increase connectivity among wild turkeys in the region.
- Meleagris gallopavo silvestris
- genetic structure
- wild turkey