Michigan DNR Asking You To Report Wild Turkey Sightings, Because They nearly Went Extinct
This was curious when I saw the initial headline on MLive... "The DNR wants to know about wild turkey sightings in January."
WHY? Is it some kind of game? Like yelling "Slug Bug" when you see a VW Beetle, and hitting your brothers and sisters, but if you report it to the DNR, they get the points, and get to slug someone else?
Turns out, no. It's not a game, but part of a decades-long project.
Turkeys aren't everywhere?
All my life, I've lived in areas where turkeys were VERY thick. Hunting seasons had SOME restrictions on tags, but mostly, it was open season. They were SO THICK, even... ("How Thick Were They?")... I had a wild one outside my office window at my last job.
I named him "Thomas." He seemed too proper to be a "Tom."
But something I did NOT know, was how far the Turkey population actually stretched, and it just seemed obvious to me, that Turkeys were thick everywhere.
That wasn't always the case here.
Turkeys Nearly Went Extinct in Michigan?
Had Benjamin Franklin actually gotten his wish (allegedly), and the North American Turkey was named the Official Bird of the United States, these ground fowl might have been more protected. But, they weren't, and in the 1950s, the birds nearly went extinct in Michigan due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss.
That's when the Department of Natural Resources stepped in, and practically eliminated hunting for a while, bought a population of 50 new turkeys from Pennsylvania, and introduced them into western Michigan. They soon followed with populations from Missouri and Iowa to help bolster, and expand the gene pool in the southern Lower Peninsula.
The State DNR resumed regulated hunting in 1965. Now, the Lower Peninsula has a population of about 200,000 wild turkeys, and can be found again in nearly every county... and almost all of them are descendants of the birds bought in the 1950s from Pennsylvania.
So Why are we Spotting Them for DNR?
Michigan DNR has a MI Birds Program that helps the DNR with their efforts of conservation and management. Through the Month of January, they're asking citizens of Michigan to call and report any wild sightings of turkeys to try and develop an accurate picture of how many birds are in the state, and where they are living.
If you see a Turkey, you're asked to report it on their "Eyes in the Field" web page.
"Information from observations will benefit wild turkey management in Michigan. The Comeback of the Wild Turkey is one of the greatest wildlife conservation stories in Michigan. Wild Turkeys can now be found in parts of every county in the Lower Peninsula, plus areas of the Upper Peninsula."