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What’s with all the Wild Turkeys in the area?

These days, wild turkeys are a common sight in our area, but it wasn’t always that way. Turkeys have a storied history, full of misadventures and triumphs, that continues to this day.

The Spanish were the first to bring turkeys to the Old World after they discovered the unfamiliar birds in Mexico and took a liking to them. At the time, the Ottoman Empire was at its peak, and what the Spanish brought over from America traveled through the Levant to get to England. Because of this, the English tended to give Turkish names to imports from the New World—they called pumpkins Turkish cucumbers and referred to maize as Turkish wheat. It was natural to give the American birds the name Turkey-cock, which later got shortened to turkey.

By the beginning of the 20th century, turkeys had been driven to the edge of extinction by overzealous hunting and loss of habitat. Game managers estimate that there were as few as 30,000 turkeys in the US by the 1930s. Conservation efforts in the 60s and 70s succeeded so well, turkeys have moved into suburban and urban neighborhoods and become a nuisance in some communities. Reports of turkeys chasing people, blocking roads, and causing bike and motorcycle accidents have grown increasingly common in recent years. Because turkeys perceive frightened people as subordinate, it’s important to step confidently towards turkeys instead of turning around or backing up. Give turkeys a respectful amount of distance and refrain from feeding them and the likelihood of unpleasant encounters will be reduced.


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