Turkeys Have Come a Long Way in NH

Fish and Game has Brought Bird Back in Granite State

You don’t have to look too hard in New Hampshire to spot a wild turkey these days. That hasn’t always been the case, though, and NH Fish and Game is largely to thank for the bird’s revival here.

Ted Walski has worked for the Department of Fish and Game for 44 years, and is currently the state turkey project leader.

Ted Walski has worked for the Department of Fish and Game for 44 years, and is currently the state turkey project leader. Photo courtesy of NH Fish and Game.

As recently as the 1970s, there were no wild turkeys in New Hampshire. After a few failed attempts to reintroduce them to the state, Fish and Game finally saw success in 1975, placing 25 birds in Walpole and Westmoreland. From that initial group, the population has now grown to 40,000 with birds in all parts of the state. We’re now in the thick of turkey breeding season, so seeing (or hearing) one of those 40,000 birds is especially likely.

“The turkeys have been gobbling, and they surrounded my property this weekend,” said Fish and Game biologist Ted Walski, who is the department’s turkey project leader. “5:30 in the morning, they begin gobbling. The toms gobble in their roost trees to announce their presence to the girls that are around. It’s worth the price of admission, because when I was growing up, we never had wild turkeys.”

Walski, who is a longtime SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member, has worked as a biologist for Fish and Game for more than four decades. He said they had blueprint for bringing the birds back to New Hampshire.

“You had to learn everything from scratch over the last 40 years,” he said.

Walski said turkeys prefer to nest in pastures, which helps explain the success of the group placed in farm-rich Walpole and Westmoreland all those years ago. The birds have had to adapt, though, as the number of dairy farms has reduced five-fold since Walski started at Fish and Game. As it turns out, food left for much smaller birds has been the key.

“I don’t lose sleep over the lost farms anymore,” Walski said. “When I was younger, nobody had bird feeders, and now every house on every street has one. This is how they’ve adapted. This gets them by, even if there’s deep snow.”

Walski said the birds have also spread far and wide from their original location.

“I didn’t think they were going to go very far north, but now they’re up to the Canadian border and there’s turkeys everywhere in the state,” Walski said.

Fish and Game has also seen the population begin to thrive in the more populous areas around Manchester and into Rockingham County.

“That was a pleasant surprise — they’ve become somewhat more suburban turkeys,” he said.

With the return of the turkey population, it’s allowed for limited turkey hunting seasons each year. The “spring gobbler season” runs through most of the month of May, but before that starts we have Youth Turkey Weekend coming up this weekend. You can read more about Youth Turkey Weekend here. You can find out more about the regular spring gobbler season here. If you’d like to read more about the return of the wild turkey to New Hampshire, you can find a great article from Fish and Game here.

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