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Published: Wednesday, 11/27/2013

Wild turkeys once again plentiful in Michigan

Gobble, gobble: Efforts to restore Michigan's wild turkey population prove successful


LANSING, Mich. — The wild turkey has completed its comeback in Michigan, but not all are thrilled with the development.

Farmers say the birds eat wheat and pull corn out of the ground soon after the crops begin to sprout, and they also like to make nests in farms’ hay fields.

Wild turkeys also have become a traffic hazard.

The sometimes noisy birds are plentiful throughout the state, which is a quite a change from early last century, when gobblers and hens had been wiped out by habitat loss and unregulated hunting.

“We went from having lots of wild turkeys to zero turkeys by the turn of the century,” Al Stewart, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources upland game bird specialist, told The Detroit News (http://bit.ly/1bUVe9R ). “Michigan wasn’t alone in this decline of wild turkeys. It was one of the later states to lose their birds.”

Efforts to restore Michigan’s wild turkey population have been so successful that the bird’s numbers have reached an estimated 200,000.

To keep that figure in check, the state has two hunting seasons annually. The fall season ended two weeks ago.

Michigan ranks seventh in the nation for the number of wild turkeys killed by hunters, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation, trailing Missouri, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York and Mississippi.

“Wild turkeys are wildly popular animals,” said Shawn Riley, a professor with Michigan State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “It’s a native species that’s part of our Midwestern landscape.”

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