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From the Fall 2010 Conservationist for Kids

Flock of turkeys

Turkey Timeline

By Gina Jack and Michael Schiavone

In the 1600s, wild turkeys lived across New York State, south of the Adirondacks. By the mid-1800s, turkeys were completely gone from New York. Today, they can be found everywhere in the state, including the high peaks of the Adirondacks and even in our largest cities.

In the 1600s, when Europeans arrived in what is now New York State, most of the land was covered by forests. Many kinds of wildlife lived in the forests, including wild turkeys.

Early settlers cut down forests to make open areas for farming and to use the wood for building. The settlers did not understand how to balance needs of wildlife with their own needs. They cut a lot of forests, and important wildlife habitat was lost. There were no regulated hunting seasons in those days, and settlers hunted turkeys for food year-round. Wild turkeys sometimes wandered into barnyards, where they caught diseases and parasites from domestic turkeys kept by the settlers. This combination of habitat loss, unregulated hunting and domestic poultry diseases meant hard times for turkeys. By the mid-1800s, wild turkeys were no longer seen in New York State.

By the late 1800s, about three quarters of New York State was cleared of forests. Around the same time, some people began leaving their farms and moving into cities. Over time, some of the farmland became overgrown with brush and, later, with trees, making it suitable habitat for wild turkeys once again. Around 1948, a small group of wild turkeys moved into western New York State from northern Pennsylvania. They were the first wild turkeys back in New York in 100 years.

Habitat is the key for all wildlife-the right amounts and kinds of food, water, shelter and space (the size of the animal's home range), all arranged in a way that they can use

Wild turkey habitat = woodlands with different kinds of trees, places for roosting and good ground cover for nesting, plus a variety of foods, including plants, insects, fruits, beechnuts, acorns; also farm fields where waste grain is available

Did you know that turkeys roost (sleep) in trees?