Wiped out in Ohio by 1904, these native birds are back WILD TURKEYS


By Susan McMann

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

The wild turkey, Ohio’s largest game bird, has returned after many years of absence. In fact, it is so well established now, it is in all 88 counties and has high densities in nearly all of Ohio’s Appalachian counties.

These birds were plentiful throughout Ohio and our nation when the European settlers first arrived. They were so plentiful that Benjamin Franklin’s choice for our national bird was the wild turkey. As the state population grew and forest lands were converted to cropland, the wild turkey’s population dwindled to the point that no birds remained in the state by 1904. Thanks to habitat restoration and management, and trap and transplanting programs, wild-turkey populations are once again thriving. Restoration of wild turkeys in North America is widely considered one of the greatest wildlife management successes of our time.

Since the numbers of wild turkeys are increasing and human development continues to expand into turkey habitat, conflicts between the birds and humans is likely. Here’s how you can deal with the challenge:

Habitat modification

Do not feed wild turkeys.

If wild turkeys begin frequenting a bird feeder, drive them away.

Temporarily cover windows or other reflective objects if they have attracted the attention of a misguided tom during breeding season.

Garden plants can be protected using bird netting.

If turkeys become aggressive

Do not let them intimidate you.

Make a lot of noise, wave your arms, and chase them away.

Spraying them with a strong steady stream of water from a garden hose can be an effective method to drive the bird off without injury (but is temporary).

Wild turkeys that are causing continual problems may need to be removed by professionals. Do not attempt to catch the nuisance turkey yourself.

Farmers are often concerned about crop damage caused by wild turkeys. Though wild turkeys do sometimes cause damage, researchers have found that the majority of wildlife-related crop damage is caused by the nocturnal feeding of raccoons, white-tailed deer and small mammals.

Public health concerns

Wild turkeys are not considered to be a public health concern. However, direct contact with wild turkeys or their droppings should be avoided.

Legal Status

In Ohio, wild turkeys are legally protected by the Ohio Wildlife Code. In urban areas, wild turkeys may not be removed except by a professional. In rural areas, hunting can help control populations.

For more information about licenses and current wild-turkey hunting regulations in Ohio, go to http://go.osu.edu/wildturkey.

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