Why Are There So Many Wild Turkeys In Minnesota + Wisconsin?
It used to be that living in the Northland, looking for living obstacles while driving on the highway was pretty easy. Sure, there would be deer - they were (usually) easy to spot due their size. Additionally, some smaller wild animals would make their way onto the roadway - from skunks to rabbits, turtles to fox. On occasion, a random fox or bear might show up to be a nuisance. But that was about it.
Recently though, a different wild animal has become pretty commonplace along (and in!) the roads in the Northland: wild turkeys. There have been countless reports of wild turkey-to-vehicle run-ins - there was recently a report of an accident on I-35 in Minnesota; even some "flocks" that have attacked cars and people. I know that personally - on most days - I encounter at least one wild turkey or so on my daily commute.
Things were different just a few short years ago. As a life-long resident of this area, I can personally share that wild turkey sightings weren't very common; when I first started noticing their presence, they sort of caught me off guard as to what they were. (I mean, if you don't see a species on a regular basis, you have less of visual clues to make that instant identification).
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shares that wild turkeys were all-but extinct in the state at the beginning of the 1970's. At that time, the agency set about to reverse the course on the wild turkey population:
"Today's turkey population descended from a successful release of turkeys that occurred between 1971 and 1973 when 29 adult wild turkeys were trapped in Missouri and transplanted to Houston County in extreme southeastern Minnesota Since this modest beginning...Minnesota's population has grown to more than 70,000 wild turkeys."
70,000 is a sizable number of birds for an area that had seen the population grind down to (almost) none.
So what's causing their increased presence in our area?
For sure, the healthy population of wild turkeys is dependent on the release program form the early 1970's. However, something else occurred that supported their growth in numbers:
"At first, the appearance of turkeys is usually novel and welcome. Property owners often regrettably feed the birds to encourage them to stay. It is only after the droppings accumulate, property is damaged, or residents are chased by aggressive jakes [birds] that they are considered a nuisance."
Along with the property damage, one of problems with increased numbers of wild turkey is their seemingly defiant nature towards automobiles and people. In sharp contrast to other wild animals like deer, wild turkeys seem to "not care" about honking horns and they don't seem to mind human beings running towards them or shooing them away. That defiant nature makes interactions with wild turkeys difficult.
So what can you do to mitigate wild turkey interactions? The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers the following tips:
- Don't raise and release turkeys
- Don't feed turkeys that come on your property
- Keep bird feeder areas clean
- Don't let wild turkeys intimidate you. In other words, don't let them get "comfortable" on your property
- Cover windows or other reflective objects
- Protect your gardens and crops
- Educate your neighbors
For specific tips and answers to additional questions in regards to the increasing wild turkey population, click here.