Discover Nature: Wild Turkeys

Nov 21, 2017

Besides representing a staple at the Thanksgiving dinner table, wild turkeys also represent one of the great conservation success stories in Missouri. This week on Discover Nature, learn more about how Missourians brought this large game bird back from the brink of extinction.
Credit Missouri Department of Conservation

This week on Discover Nature, we give thanks, and recognize the king of North American game birds.

Wild turkeys have been important to humans for a long time. Evidence shows that people have used them for food, decorations, and tools for at least 9,000 years.

When settlers first arrived in America, the continent may have supported as many as 10 million of the birds with 250,000 in what is now Missouri.

But unregulated hunting, and indiscriminate burning and timber removal brought them to the brink of extinction. By 1952, fewer than 2,500 birds remained in only 14 Missouri counties.

Turkeys rely on healthy habitat containing diverse insect populations and robust acorn production to survive.

But they also depend on us.  Improved land management practices, combined with the efforts of wildlife biologists, conservation agents, and concerned Missourians, have saved our state’s wild turkeys.

Today, these wild birds of the pheasant family inhabit all of Missouri’s 114 counties and hunting is once again a sustainable practice. 

This week in the woods, or gathered around the dinner table, take time to give thanks for the birds we enjoy, and the work of generations of Missourians to protect them.

Learn more about Missouri’s wild turkey success story with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.