Thanksgiving For Turkeys

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on November 2, 2010

Thanksgiving for turkeys?  Yes, actually, turkeys have much to be thankful for.  Not those stupid domestic white turkeys that are too big to breed without help and live short lives on poultry farms before appearing on our tables.  No, I speak of the wild turkeys.  They have actually got a lot to be thankful for.

Turkeys are native to North America.  There are five subspecies of the North American Wild Turkey:  the Rio Grande, the Eastern, the Gould’s, the Osceola, Merriam’s.  The Ocellated Turkey in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is the only other species of turkey in the world.  When Europeans arrived to the New World, they found healthy populations of birds.  Native Americans ate them, but were limited in the numbers they could kill with bow and arrow.

By the early 1900’s, market hunting and habitat destruction had reduced populations to 30,000 continent wide.  Turkey were in the same boat as deer, egrets, and passenger pigeons and the boat was rapidly taking on water.  Oddly enough, turkey owe their continued existence to sport hunters, who organized and passed laws taxing guns, ammunition, and other sporting goods and directing that money  be used for habitat restoration, restocking, and the enforcement of hunting regulations.  Market hunting was also outlawed.  The laws came too late for some species, such as the passenger pigeon, but came just in time for the turkey.

Federal efforts were supplemented by the National Wild Turkey Federation , who led restocking efforts.  Four of the five subspecies are estimated to be more widespread than ever in their history.  Work continues on them as well as the Gould’s turkey, the rarest turkey.  It lives in rugged mountains on the Mexican border, making study difficult.  Still, all of the turkeys have much to be thankful for.  While individual turkeys may not survive the holiday, it looks like the species will do just fine.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia November 3, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Your wide and varied knowledge continues to astound me Stephanie 🙂
My aunt used to breed turkeys for Christmas (we don’t do thanksgiving in Oz) but she would get so attached she would keep them as pets! lol
Fortunately she lived in the country so we didn’t visit often as I found them quite scary as a young child. Don’t know what breed they were but they were big, colourful and to this child fierce!
BTW you get a mention in my latest post. Hope you like it.
Patricia Perth Australia
Patricia recently posted..Lavenders- Small Niche Big IdeasMy Profile


Stephanie Suesan Smith November 4, 2010 at 8:11 am

Gobblers are pretty fierce. I raised a male and female turkey once and the gobbler and I had it out about him attacking me when I came in to care for them. He decided I was tolerable, and I decided he got to live a little longer. But I did not get attached to either. They were quite good — Rio Grande turkeys. I got attached to the little mallards and the chickens — I had Rhode Island Reds. Unfortunately, a dog go in the coop. I had lots of stewing chickens then because he attacked them as they moved, then moved on when they stopped. I found them immediately due to the turkey’s alarm calls and was able to eat them, but was sad to lose the birds.


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