This week is of course Thanksgiving, so the picture of the week is in honor of the wild turkey. The turkey has long been a staple on our plate on the last Thursday of November. This is usually a farm raised variety and there has never been a shortage, so few are aware that the wild turkey was once on the road to extinction.
In the 1930s the population sank to a dangerous low of around 30,000 primarily from loss of habitat. Thanks to successful reintroduction methods, turkeys now have an estimated population over 6.5 million and can be found in every U.S. state except for Alaska.
I have witnessed this incredible turn around first hand. As a child growing up in the 1980s I frequently canoed and hiked in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Tennessee. Three states with suitable turkey habitat, but never saw one until a hiking trip to Big Bend National Park in 1987.
Now it is possible to drive up I-94 through Wisconsin and see scores of them feeding in the farm fields especially in the morning. The recovery is nationwide and I have now seen turkeys in many states including the picture at the top from the Great Smoky Mountains.
They have even returned in force to my home state here in Illinois. In fact there is a turkey in Lake Bluff, Illinois that hangs out near a busy intersection that has become locally famous and with 1,800+ fans. Yes, a turkey has more friends and fans than I do.
This Thanksgiving when devouring a farm raised turkey drenched in gravy with mashed potatoes, do not forget to give thanks to the remarkable return of the wild turkey.
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