Nov 23, 2022 - News

How Iowa turkeys went from near extinction to everywhere

Turkeys with a cop

Turkeys with a West Des Moines police officer. Photo courtesy of WDMPD

Wild turkeys are so common in Iowa, they made headlines earlier this year when they terrorized residents in West Des Moines, prompting multiple calls a day to the police department.

Yes, but: It wasn't that long ago when turkeys were nearly extinct here and in other parts of the U.S.

Flashback: In 1910, wild turkeys were nearly eliminated in Iowa due to overhunting and lack of regulations, said James Coffey, a forest wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

  • But in the 1960s, their population started reemerging when conservation efforts took place in the state and across the country.

Zoom in: Biologists placed turkeys in our state forests to try and give them a fighting chance for survival, but they quickly learned that they can survive in a mixture of environments.

  • Hunting them wasn't allowed again until the 1970s, which allowed their population to grow.

Now, the wild birds are in all 99 counties, including in fast-growing urban areas like Des Moines' suburbs.

The bottom line: With just a little bit of conservation effort, most animal species can go from nearly extinct to right in your backyard.


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