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Intro to Wild Turkey


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Introduction to the Wild Turkey - Meleagris Gallopavo


Restoration Efforts


Restorations Efforts for the Wild Turkey

In the early 1900s, only around 30,000 turkeys remained. But around 1920, things began to change for the better. Millions of acres cleared by pioneers began to regenerate into woodlands. Also, some farsighted leaders began enacting more and more conservation laws. In 1937 the Roosevelt Administration passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) which placed an excise tax on firearms, ammunition and other hunting equipment. The billions of dollars raised by this tax have been used in part to rebuild the wild turkey population.

Early restoration techniques many state agencies believed to be promising, did not work, such as: artificial propagation of game-farm or pen-raised turkeys. Pen-raised turkeys were not properly imprinted on (recognition and attachment) wild hens and did not have the experience and survival skills necessary to live and reproduce in the wild. Released pen-raised birds spread disease to the true wild flocks. Stocking of pen-raised turkeys only served to feed predators and hinder population expansion. Pennsylvania stopped trying to stock pen-raised turkeys in 1981.

As trapping techniques advanced, turkey numbers began to incline. The development of a rapidly propelled cannon net, originally designed for capturing waterfowl, was a major factor in relocating large numbers of wild turkeys for restoration. Thousands of wild turkeys were captured or moved with this technique or variations of it; in addition, drop nets and immobilizing drugs were used.

During the last 60 years, state and federal wildlife agencies, which are funded largely by hunters' dollars, have spent millions on habitat-improvement and turkey trap-and-transplant projects. By 1959 the total turkey population approached one-half million. In 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), a nonprofit conservation and educational organization, was founded to conserve the wild turkeys and to regulate people's hunting habits. Since its inception NWTF has contributed more than $82 million on restoring the turkey throughout its original range, and also introducing it into may other regions. In 1994, almost all of the forested eastern United States and much of the forested West had been restocked, with an estimated total turkey population approaching 4 million. Today, some 5.0 million big birds roam 49 states (all except Alaska).

Even though loss of habitat and other environmental factors remain causes for concern, wild turkey populations should stay healthy and growing. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss almost drove the wild turkey to extinction but the Pittman-Robertson Act, state wildlife resource agency turkey restoration programs, the National Wild Turkey Federation's Target 2000 program, and excellent hunting policies by the states have helped to secure the wild turkey's future.



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