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Rewilding Wild Turkeys

Thu, 05/23/2024 - 12:22


Back in 1992, when the state turned a few wild turkeys loose in the woods, few people, if any, anticipated how well they would do. These days they are as common as deer but somewhat less destructive.

Hunting was the main reason that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation cited when it first brought wild-trapped live turkeys from upstate and let a few go free in Hither Woods. But it was not until a second release that the project took off. In 2004, the D.E.C. trapped a handful of descendants of the 1992 birds and resettled them at the Grace Estate in Northwest and the Jacob’s Farm Preserve in Springs. For a time, sightings were rare and exciting; now wild turkeys are found anywhere there are woods or brush to hide in.

In ecological terms, wild turkeys are a good thing. They help keep certain kinds of insects in check. In addition to bugs, they gobble up leaves, seeds, berries, worms, snails, frogs, and small reptiles. A penchant for tender greens make them a menace in a garden, however. In turn, they provide a steady food source for predators.

Late May is a good time to watch for hen turkeys and their poults. A member of the Star staff said a hen and about 10 young ones, puffballs a day or two old, came out of the pines to peck on his lawn on Tuesday, having timed their emergence to the return of warmer weather.

Keep an eye out; you may spot this minor miracle, too.


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