| Story by Cindy Cain |
As you prepare to chomp into a bit of turkey this week, you might want to pay homage to the domesticated turkey's wilder cousin, Meleagris gallopavo silvestris.
While wild turkeys once roamed Illinois in great numbers, by 1910 the state was a turkey-free zone. The creatures were wiped out by habitat loss and overhunting. But that is not the case today thanks to work by the state to restock this important native species.
“Between 1959 and 1967, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) obtained wild-trapped turkeys from Mississippi, Arkansas, and West Virginia,” according to the University of Illinois Extension's Living with Wildlife in Illinois website. “These birds were released in small groups at five locations in southern Illinois.”
The birds in southern Illinois did well and were prolific enough to help stock the rest of the state.
“Between 1970 and 2000, IDNR biologists relocated over 4,700 turkeys to 99 counties,” the extension service reported. “Today, the wild turkey is a resident in every county in Illinois.”