Idaho is seeing a growing wild turkey population. Despite the growth, most people still pick up a frozen bird at the store. The farm-bred birds have been genetically selected over the course of decades to provide more meat. Especially white meat. The result is a bird that waddles around behind a massive chest. The wild version is a slender bird, but it hasn’t been packed through its life with anti-biotics and other efforts to grow a larger and juicer bird.
The host of a popular YouTube channel called The History Guy is reviewing the history of the turkey this week as we approach Thanksgiving Day. When Europeans first arrived, the only flocks of turkeys were the wild variety. If you’ve ever encountered one, it may look dimwitted and ungainly, but the same bird is very elusive. I nearly caught one 25 years ago with my car. It flew across the road at hood level and somehow avoided a collision.
I remember reading a story in the New York Times 30 years ago. During the Great Depression, the number of wild turkeys may have dwindled to three million nationwide. The birds faced extinction. Then over the course of the next 60 years, there was a rebound to an estimated 35 million during the early 1990s. There were some conservation efforts, but in many parts of the country, turkeys simply adapted. I used to live in a suburb of a large city and when I sometimes walked outside, I would see a flock of animals as if they were marching past a nearby tree stand. If you made some noise, they would quickly scatter.
Now if we could restore the pheasant population in the Magic Valley.
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Gallery Credit: Carena Liptak