Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conferences


Date of this Version

September 1989


The reintroduction of the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) represents one of the great success stories for Wisconsin wildlife management. Human settlement, habitat loss, and perhaps disease, combined to eliminate once-common turkeys from Wisconsin by 1900. Periodic attempts to restore a viable turkey population were unsuccessful with the exception of a small flock at Meadow Valley-Necedah in central Wisconsin. However in 197'6, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) began a new, well conceived cooperative project with the Missouri Department of Conservation. Under the agreement, Missouri received 3 wild Wisconsin ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) in exchange for each wild-caught Missouri turkey. In retrospect, the true wild nature of the reintroduced turkeys (rather than game farm stock) and the rapid transfer from Missouri proved to be key elements in the program. Over several years, 353 Missouri turkeys were released in the heavily wooded Coulee Country of western Wisconsin. Just over a decade later in 1989, the Wisconsin turkey flock was estimated at 50,000 plus over a wide range in the southern half of the state, especially in about a dozen southwestern counties.