Talkin’ Turkey: Did You Know? **

Who Lives Longer – The Wild or Domesticated Turkey?

Biologists say that either species could live the same length of time – into their early teens.  However, few wild turkeys last that more than 5 years!

Life is tough in the wild; fewer than half of the poults that hatch will survive to see their first birthday!

Wild Turkeys Were Almost Extinct!

During the travels of Lewis and Clark, wild turkeys were everywhere!  In his journal, Lewis indicated that wild turkey was one of their favorite foods.  However, as Americans moved westward, they killed off the beautiful birds and turned their natural habitats into cornfields.

One hundred years ago, there were only 30,000 wild turkeys left.  The few that remained lived in extremely inaccessible areas.

By 1920, wild turkeys were extinct in 30 states and only existed in small numbers in 18 states.

The 1950 edition of  The Columbia Encyclopedia stated that wild turkey were extinct in the lands north of Pennsylvania and in Canada.

Early Attempts at Restocking Wild Turkeys …

What Poults Learn in the First 4 Days is Critical to Their Survival!

were not successful for a very interesting reason.   It took generations of conservationists to discover the problem.

But you and I learned about this critical issue in early weeks of Biology I class!  What is it?

In early attempts, conservationists decided to turn domesticated turkeys into wild turkeys.  The birds turned loose after breeding in pens either were killed by predators or starved to death.

During the first 96 hours of a poult’s life, he lives on his remaining yolk reserve.  All the while, he’s learning to catch protein-rich insects, so he can grow strong.

However, if the poult learns to eat foods supplied by humans, he will never learn to feed himself!   You and I know it as “imprinting.”

Wild Turkey Numbers in Modern Times

As of 1998, there were more than 5 million wild turkeys in America! *  The largest population in a single state is in Texas, with 600,000.

Idaho is a state that never had a native population.  In 1998, there were more than 20,000 – and the numbers increase each year.

The state of New York had few wild turkeys at the end of World War II. Now there are over 200,000.


* Much of the credit for these fantastic numbers goes to the volunteer group the National Wild Turkey Federation & state departments of game & fishing.


A Previous Posting (Keeping UV Brighteners Out of Hunting Clothes): I’m waiting for a response from a company; more info soon.


Coming Up: What turkeys are where; the differences between the 5 sub-species; mistakes hunters make while turkey hunting, ….


This blog is a companion to my website:

**  Changed wording for clarity; changed color of paragraph headings.

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 11:12 pm  Comments Off on Talkin’ Turkey: Did You Know? **  
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