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DNR question of the week: Wild turkeys

Question of the week

Q: Wild turkeys seem to be fairly common in Minnesota. Has this always been the case?

A: Historically, wild turkeys are thought to have lived only in far southern Minnesota. By 1880, they had vanished from the state due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss.

Attempts to re-establish wild turkeys in Minnesota date back to the 1920s, but these efforts weren’t successful until 1971, when turkeys trapped in Missouri were released into Houston County and showed strong survival.  Since then, the DNR has released wild turkeys throughout much of Minnesota to offer ample hunting opportunities. This, along with a favorable mix of agricultural and forest habitat, has allowed the species to expand well beyond its pre-settlement range.

DNR research has shown why the ag/forest habitat mix is important for year-round survival of wild turkeys in Minnesota. Woodlands provide roosting sites and year-round cover, while forest edges and openings provide nesting and brood-rearing cover. Access to nearby farmland provides an important food source. Turkeys can survive Minnesota’s cold winters as long as they can find food, which is another reason why they have successfully expanded their range to the north.

To learn more, visit the DNR’s wild turkey management page at

Nicole Davros, DNR upland game project leader