DNR Q & A: How long have wild turkeys been in Minnesota?

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources field staff, resource managers and the DNR Information Center staff answer many questions every day about natural resources topics. Here is one of them:

Q. Wild turkeys seem to be fairly common in Minnesota. Has this always been the case?​

A. Historically, wild turkeys are thought to have lived only in far southern Minnesota. By 1880, they had vanished from the state due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss. Attempts to re-establish wild turkeys in Minnesota date back to the 1920s, but these efforts weren’t successful until 1971, when turkeys trapped in Missouri were released into Houston County and showed strong survival. From the 1970s through 2008, the DNR continued its trap-and-release program to release wild turkeys throughout much of Minnesota to improve hunting opportunities. This, along with a favorable mix of agricultural and forest habitat, allowed turkeys to expand well beyond their pre-settlement range.

DNR research has shown why the ag/forest habitat mix is important for year-round survival of wild turkeys in Minnesota. Woodlands provide roosting sites and year-round cover, while forest edges and openings provide nesting and brood-rearing cover. Access to nearby agricultural land provides an important food source. Turkeys can survive Minnesota’s cold winters as long as they can find food, which is another reason why they have successfully expanded their range to the north.

To learn more, visit the DNR’s wild turkey management page at www.mndnr.gov/turkey.

— Nicole Davros, DNR upland game project leader


For more information, call the DNR information line at 296-6157 or go to the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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