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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wild Turkeys Make Big Comeback To Northern Minnesota

© Photo By Ken Korczak

It still makes you do a double take: A flock of wild turkeys just hanging out in extreme northern Minnesota. But they’re here, and they seem to be doing just fine, and better every year.

In recent years, the Minnesota DNR and sporting groups have been working diligently to reintroduce the turkey to all parts of Minnesota after they were hunted to virtual extinction from our state by the early 1900s.

Since then there have been occasional attempt to bring the turkey back. For a while, sports groups tried raising young turkeys domestic fashion. But when these human-reared birds were released into the wild, they were quickly picked off by natural predators, from fox and wolves, to bobcats and whatever.

The problem? Being raised in captivity didn’t teach the turkey’s any natural survival skills. They expected Mother Nature to be nice to them after they were released into the Minnesota Eden -- but it was more like a Garden of Tribulation for the naïve gobblers.

So the DNR went out and got some "street smart" wild turkeys which grew up in the woods of Missouri. Minnesota brought hostages to leverage the deal -- ruffed grouse, prairie chickens and walleyes --and traded them to the folks in the Show-Me state for live-trapped wild turkeys.

That worked. Releasing turkeys raised naturally in the wild enabled the big birds to survive in the Minnesota wilderness, to be fruitful and multiply. Even so, few expected that the turkey would be seen as far north as Kittson and Roseau counties, but here they are, now commonly showing up in a field or farmyard near you.

Recently, I was delighted with a tough gang of gobblers wandered into my yard and had a tense stand-off with my chickens. It never turned ugly. There was some shrill gobbling from the toms, and some strident crowing from my roosters, and then both decided to go their own way in peace.

It’s nice to see the wild turkey back in the far north of Minnesota.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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