Wild Turkeys Bounce Back Across America
Native to only North America, the formerly abundant wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) graced the tables of early colonists and was Ben Franklin’s choice for our country’s national bird and symbol. Since then, habitat loss, industrial pollution and both legal and illegal hunting have decimated flocks. But the National Wild Turkey Federation reports that a public/private initiative launched in the last quarter of the 20th century is succeeding in restoring turkey populations.
Some 7,000 turkeys have been relocated to conducive habitats, and the program hopes that its birds will produce 25 births over five years for every adult released. As an example, in Connecticut, a program has already restored thousands of birds to a wild turkey population that was termed extinct in the 1800s.
“Now there are turkeys [in locations] where they haven’t been since before the settlement of Europeans,” concludes James Earl Kennamer, Ph.D., vice president of the NWTF conservation programs.“Within the last five years, their range has expanded to 46 percent of the United States.”